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The math performance of minorities: Influences and learning styles in a middle school classroom

1 December 1993


This is an inquiry on the math performance of Hispanic, African, and Native American middle school students. A broad range of student influences (parent, self-concept, peer; teacher, and school related) and the field-dependent/field-independent theory of the cognitive learning process were the examined variables.

This theory, developed by H. A. Witkin, et aI., identified several. different learning tendencies for each of the two processes. Various studies concluded that these minority students tended to be more field-dependent than their white peers. This implied that teaching strategies could be ' modified to better support these minorities.

Five eighth grade students were $elected for this inquiry-four were in Math 8 and one was in algebra. Their math teacher was a white male who regularly use the "sandwich" approach to teaching math and rarely varied his teaching strategies. All the students were performing below average, with the exception of the algebra student who was doing slightly above average.

There were several influences that discouraged high math performance for the Math 8 students, and a few relatively strong influences that encouraged good performance in the algebra student. I was unable to determine how or if field-dependent and field independent learning styles affected math success. It seemed that combinations of various factors of student influences and cognitive learning styles were the reasons these minority students were not succeeding in this math class.


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