Let it resound, without bound: The joy and brilliance of Black Language in Mathematics Discourse
Nickolaus Ortiz

About the research


Equity in Math Education Research Grants

Award Year



Georgia State University

Primary Discipline

Mathematics Education
This project will devote major energies to planning and producing a documentary focused on the way some Black people (high-school aged youth and beyond) explain their mathematical thinking, processing, and solution strategies, giving an explicit focus to a sociolinguistic analysis guided by Baker-Bell?s description of the features of Black Language (2021). Findings will highlight relevant examples of the syntax, semantics, phonology, and rhetorical features evidenced in participant responses. Analyses will examine participants? explanations for evidence of procedural or conceptual knowledge of the topics. Ultimately, it is not my intention to show that BL is a mutually unintelligible language, but to show that there is a style, a cadence, a joy and a resistance that is embodied in the familiarity of our linguistic practices, all of which have room in the mathematics space. I intend to show that some of these signifying, proverbial uses, and narrative styles (Lee, 1995) might be captured in the ways the participants explain mathematics concepts. Tangentially, I hope to construct findings that share mathematics educators and practitioners? positions towards these Black people?s understandings of the topics. Findings will convey whether the dispositions that they have towards BL speakers? mathematical prowess, as evident in their discussions of the topics, are generally favorable. My findings will help to prepare other teachers to listen to the substance that is in students? responses, and will help to support them in rethinking the ways that they might dismiss or try to supplant Black youth?s linguistic practices, and towards what end.
About Nickolaus Ortiz
Sandra Zuñiga Ruiz is an Assistant Professor of K-12 Emancipatory Education in the Teacher Education Department at San José State University. She is a Mexicana daughter-sister-motherwife, scholar, maestra who grew up in an immigrant agricultural community in California. Her love for learning and education emerged through the teachings of her mother who taught her to see and imagine a world in which people could thrive and live dignified lives. Her work is grounded in a commitment to justice that is about creating mejores futuros for young people, honoring the hopes and dreams of immigrants who come to the US for a better life. Drawing from her experiences, Chicana/Latina feminist perspectives and critical approaches to learning, Sandra’s research work aims to understand how teachers of color develop understandings about race and justice with and of mathematics. Such work is motivated with the understanding that teachers of color need communities of care and sustenance to continue in their ongoing journey of becoming justice-oriented mathematics teachers in a constraining schooling system. She takes a community engaged, relational, and humanizing approach to how she navigates academia and research. Sandra holds a Ph.D. in education from UC Berkeley, an M.A. in Mathematics from San Francisco State University and a B.S. in Mathematics from California State University, Monterey Bay.

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