Exploring culturally responsive mathematics instruction with Latino/a learners in elementary classrooms
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Schools are, to a large degree, failing to teach mathematics to large numbers of culturally, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse (CLSD) students. Two factors that support this assertion are the low achievement and high dropout rates of many CLSD students. Latino students, in particular, score among the lowest of all student groups and have the highest dropout rates. Research indicates that culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is a promising approach to improving achievement. CRT teaches to and through the rich cultural heritage that CLSD students bring to the classroom. There have been very few studies of CRT with Latino students who are typically viewed as being at educational risk. The purpose of this study is to describe how successful upper elementary teachers teach mathematics to Latino students with and without disabilities. The research questions guiding this inquiry were: (1) What are the features of math instruction utilized by successful elementary math teachers of Latino/a students typically viewed as being at educational risk? (2) How are these features responsive to students’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds and personal life experiences? (3) How do their instructional practices with Latino/a students correspond with the theoretical principles of culturally responsive teaching? This study employed a multiple case study design (Stake, 1995) with the mathematics classroom making up the bounded system. Five teachers and their students served as embedded units of analysis who were instrumental in understanding culturally responsive teaching. Data were collected through observation, guided semi-structured interviews and field notes about participating teachers instruction. Data analysis consisted of constant comparison and by noting patterns and themes, arriving at comparisons and contrasts, and determining conceptual explanations for the data. Results revealed that teachers used a wide variety of teaching methods including reviewing previously learned concepts, making instruction relevant, making instruction comprehensible, and teaching through music, rhymes, movement, and visuals. Findings revealed that there was very little evidence that teachers overtly planned activities that directly addressed culture. Implications for future research and teacher preparation programs are discussed.