Anti-Deficit Narratives: Engaging the Politics of Research on Mathematical Sense Making

This article identifies a self-sustaining system of deficit narratives about students of color as an entry point for studies of cognition to engage with the sociopolitical context of mathematical learning. Principles from sociopolitical perspectives and Critical Race Theory, and historical analyses of deficit thinking in education research, support the investigation into the system. Using existing research about students' understanding of a limit in calculus as context, this article proposes a definition of a deficit perspective on sense making and unpacks some of its tenets. The data illustration in this article focuses on the mathematical sense making of a Chicana undergraduate student. The analysis uses an anti-deficit perspective to construct a sensemaking counter-story by a woman of color. The counter-story challenges existing deficit master-narratives about the mathematical ability of women of color. The article closes with a proposal for an anti-deficit method for studying the sense making of students of color.

Contributor Notes

Aditya P. Adiredja, Department of Mathematics, University of Arizona, 617 N. Santa Rita Ave., P.O. Box 210089, Tucson, AZ 85721-0089;

(Corresponding author is Adiredja
Journal for Research in Mathematics Education


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