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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2019024607
Forthcoming Article

Black Males and Early Math Achievement: A Holistic Examination of Students’ Strengths and Role Strain with Policy Implications

Krystal Williams
University of Alabama
Faheemah Mustafaa
University of California-Berkeley
Brian Burt
University of Wisconsin- Madison


Ongoing policy discourse highlights the need to increase pathways into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professions. While there is a policy push to increase STEM outcomes along the K-16 pipeline, and to expand access to career opportunities in these fields, there is also a targeted emphasis on increasing opportunities for underrepresented students as a strategic approach to diversify participation. Although male representation in STEM is generally high, the representation of males from some minority groups remains low—particularly Black males. Given that STEM pathways begin at early points in students’ academic matriculation, this study seeks to better understand Black boys’ STEM experiences and how those experiences relate to later STEM-related achievement. We focus on Black boys’ experiences in mathematics, specifically, because a foundational understanding of math is often needed to be successful in other scientific fields. This study employs a role strain and adaptation framework to examine the academic strengths and math-related strains that Black boys possess in middle school, and to investigate how these factors promote or hinder high school math achievement. The findings suggest that the strains and strengths of Black boys while in middle school relate to their math achievement. Furthermore, it illustrates how holistic models that consider strains and strengths simultaneously better illuminates the individual relationships between each of these factors and the outcome.