Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Francine Menashy

Second Advisor

Katalin Szelenyi

Third Advisor

Tejaswini Dalvi


The underrepresentation of women in STEM majors and careers reflects unequal societal structures that privilege men over women and prevent women from accessing mathematics-based fields. Mathematics courses can serve as a barrier to studying STEM, especially undergraduate College Algebra in which nationwide more than half of students struggle (Ganter & Haver, 2011; Gordon, 2008). Through a mixed methods research study that employed surveys, focus groups and interviews, this study investigated undergraduate women’s experiences in College Algebra and how these experiences influenced their beliefs about themselves as mathematicians, and their potential path through STEM. This research design was informed by a theoretical framework that includes critical pedagogy and intersectionality as a means of examining inequities, especially for those women who lie at the intersection of gender, race and class. The findings show that the traditional pedagogy in College Algebra is harmful to women, especially Black and Latinx women and women from low income households, and restricts their access to mathematics understanding, isolates them, reduces their confidence and agency and dissuades them from future mathematics classes and STEM. The voices of women in the study inform a new student-centered College Algebra pedagogy that focuses on understanding and dialogue, increasing confidence and agency, and paving a pathway to STEM. This change in pedagogy has the power to disrupt the hegemonic vision of who can be a mathematician and scientist, inspiring and including women, leading to an increase in the diversity of mathematics-based fields and to a more just and equitable society.


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