GSE Faculty Team Seeks to Advance Access and Equity in Mathematics Education

In their quest to understand how students underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) experience pre-calculus and calculus classroom instruction, GSE faculty members, Drs. Dan Battey, Nora Hyland, and Keith Weber collaborated with GSE alum, Dr. Luis Leyva who is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at Vanderbilt University.


“The purpose of our research is to add to our understanding of what discourages students of color and white women from proceeding and succeeding in higher level math and to reduce those barriers,” stated Dr. Battey.

Their innovative methodology involved asking students to journal real-time experiences from their classes that they found to be discouraging. They used these experiences to create composites, removed all identifiers of gender and race, and posed hypothetical questions to focus groups on how race and gender would impact these scenarios.

“What we found was that different groups perceived the scenarios differently based on their experiences in undergraduate mathematics classrooms and racial and gender identity,” stated Dr. Hyland. “We also posed these scenarios to instructors and asked them their perceptions and whether they had engaged in similar behavior in their classrooms.”

“Short-term responses from students demonstrate that discouraging events from instructors cause students to engage in cognitive and emotional labor,” said Dr. Battey. “Students feel embarrassed or angry and wonder why this happened to them. It often results in them deciding not to participate in class – they are concerned about being seen as inferior or wrong.”

Dr. Weber was responsible for this collaboration. “My extensive body of work in undergraduate mathematics education had not focused on equity and as I was curious about the experiences of white women and students of color, I reached out to Dr. Battey whose research focused on the experiences of students of color in elementary school math classes, Dr. Leyva who studies the intersection of gender and race in undergraduate mathematics, and Dr. Hyland whose work had focused extensively on teacher education and equity in education,” said Dr. Weber. “Together, we hope to address the issue of equity in mathematics education.”

“Our vision for our research is ideally to help individuals who teach university level mathematics be more aware of instructional behaviors that are problematic,” stated Dr. Leyva. “We hope that this research evolves into professional development for faculty and educators, so they can develop more equitable instruction in pre-calculus and calculus courses to increase persistence and socially affirming experiences in mathematics.”

This project was also supported by GSE doctoral students (Ms. Kristen Amman, Mr. Daniel López, Ms. Ruby Quea, and Ms. Emily Wolf) and Rutgers undergraduate students from the Aresty Research Center (Mr. Anthony Bernizon, Ms. Anushka Chakraborty, Ms. Joanne Igbinosun, Ms. Nisha Khan, and Ms. Cierra McClendon).