The lived experience of linear algebra: a counter-story about women of color in mathematics

Aditya P. Adiredja, Michelle Zandieh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This paper focuses on the mathematical sensemaking by women of color in the USA as part of the global effort of dismantling deficit narratives about historically marginalized groups of students. Following Adiredja’s anti-deficit framework for sensemaking, this cognitive study invited a group of women of color to share their understanding of basis from linear algebra to construct a sensemaking counter-story. Extending the framework, this study examines a task that explores the boundaries and nuances of a concept to support the effort of going beyond students’ deficits. Eight women extended the concept of basis (and vector spaces) to 22 distinct everyday contexts, drawing from their everyday lives as well as topics from their academic experiences. Their explanations revealed analytical codes describing roles and characteristics of a basis. These codes suggest ways that students can mobilize the concept of basis beyond its logical underpinnings. Contrasting interpretations using a deficit and an anti-deficit perspective construct a counter-story that showcases these women’s creativity and flexibility in understanding the concept, and potential resources for the teaching and learning of linear algebra.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-260
Number of pages22
JournalEducational Studies in Mathematics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Anti-deficit narratives
  • Basis
  • Linear algebra
  • Sociopolitical perspective
  • Student thinking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics
  • Education


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