Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Zeena Zakharia

Second Advisor

Tricia Kress

Third Advisor

Michael Gilbert


The mathematics performance of students of color in U.S. urban public schools is dismal, limiting their opportunities to attend college and achieve upward mobility. This population is less likely to be afforded classroom opportunities attributed to success in mathematics, such as access to teachers with strong content knowledge and effective teaching practices. While improvements in basic mathematics skills among students of color have been noted at the middle and high school levels, national achievement data indicate that elementary students from low-income families continue to lag behind their peers in mathematics.

This qualitative study examined teacher beliefs and practices regarding students’ mathematics learning at a high-performing urban public elementary school with a large population of students of color and English language learners from diverse low-income families. Data collection included interviews of classroom teachers, focus groups, observations through video recordings, field notes, documents, and visual materials. I employed an iterative analysis and coding process to generate several themes highlighting the potential role of teacher beliefs and practices in promoting student outcomes. The findings fall within seven categories: (1) diverse pedagogical practices; (2) interdisciplinary teaching; (3) interactive learning; (4) the guiding role of curriculum; (5) teaching and collaborative research; (6) family engagement; and (7) social justice.

The findings demonstrate that teachers employed diverse, interdisciplinary, and interactive practices in delivering the curriculum. A central feature was the integration of intentional literacy practices through the application of systemic functional linguistics to mathematics problem solving. The tenacity of teacher efficacy and culturally relevant practices emerged as cross-cutting themes. The findings suggest that when the tenacity of teacher efficacy interacts with culturally relevant practices extending to students, colleagues, and families, the mathematics performance of students of color defy expectations. The centrality of critical care and a shared commitment to the advancement of children and each other suggests that teachers operated more like a learning family than a community of learners. This notion may also point to the sustainability of these practices, with the goal of equity and social justice through the teaching and learning of mathematics.


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