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Frances Harper, PhD

Assistant Professor, STEM Education/Math


Frances K. Harper is an assistant professor of STEM (Mathematics) education at the University of Tennessee. Her research and scholarly program focuses on under-recognized dimensions of equity in mathematics education, namely identity and power, in mathematics teaching and learning. These interest areas concentrate in three large domains: (1) how teachers learn to shift traditional power dynamics in mathematics classrooms by adapting mathematics curriculum and instruction to build on historically marginalized students’ community and cultural knowledge and experiences, (2) how students negotiate their social and mathematics identities in contexts where teachers are making instructional efforts to attend to dimensions of identity and power in mathematics, and (3) how relationships among teachers, families, and community partners influence efforts to shift traditional power dynamics in mathematics classrooms.

Professional Background 


Professor Harper's research interests include: mathematics education, mathematics teacher education, urban education, community engaged scholarship

Current Projects

CAREER: Black and Latinx Parents Leading ChANge & Advancing Racial (PLANAR) Justice in Elementary Mathematics

Culturally Relevant Robotics: A Family & Teacher (CRRAFT) Partnership for Computational Thinking in Early Childhood

STEM Education for East Knoxville (SEEK)

Tennessee Eastern & Appalachian Math (TEAM) Teachers’ Circle


Doctor of Philosophy (Mathematics Education), Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Master of Arts (Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education – Mathematics Education), Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Master of Liberal Arts (Mathematics for Teaching), Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Bachelor of Arts (Classics), Tufts University, Medford, MA

Professional Service

Institutional Service

Member, Graduate Studies Committee, 2020-present

Member, Diversity Collaborative in Education Committee, 2018 – present

Member, Clinical Assistant Professor in STEM Education Search Committee, 2017-2018

Disciplinary Service

Member, Association of Mathematics Teacher Education Research Committee, 2021-2024

Community Engaged Service

Organizer, STEM Education in East Knoxville (SEEK), 2018-present

Awards and Recognitions

Teaching Award, Department of Theory & Practice in Teacher Education, 2020

National Technology Leadership Initiative Fellowship & Award, Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, 2020.

Semifinalist, NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, 2019

Fellow, Center for Inquiry and Equity in Mathematics Faculty Fellowship Program, 2019-2020

Fellow, Service, Teaching, and Research (STaR) Program, Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, 2018-2019


Articles in Refereed Journals

Harper, F.K., Stumbo, Z. & Kim, N. (2021). When robots invade the neighborhood: Learning to Teach PK-5 mathematics leveraging both technology and community knowledge. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education. 21(1). When Robots Invade the Neighborhood: Learning to Teach PreK-5 Mathematics Leveraging Both Technology and Community Knowledge – CITE Journal

Harper, F.K., Rosenberg, J.M., Compberry, S., Howell, K., & Womble, S. (2021) #mathathome during the COVID-19 pandemic: Exploring and reimagining resources and social supports for parents. Education Sciences, 11(2), 60.

Harper, F.K., Maher, E.M., & Jung, H. (2021). Whiteness as a stumbling block in learning to teach mathematics for social justice. Investigations in Mathematics Learning. 13(1), 5-17.

Harper, F. K. & Crespo. S. (2020). Learning to collaborate while learning mathematics. Mathematics Teacher: Learning and Teaching PK-12, 113(10).

Crespo, S. & Harper, F. K. (2019). Learning to pose collaborative mathematics problems with secondary prospective teachers. International Journal of Educational Research. Advance online publication.

Harper, F. K. (2019). A qualitative metasynthesis of teaching mathematics for social justice in action: Pitfalls and promises of practice. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 50(3), 268-310.

Harper, F.K. (2019). Collaboration and critical mathematical inquiry: Negotiating mathematics engagement, identity, and agency. Bank Street College of Education Occasional Paper Series, 2019(41). Retrieved from

Plumb, A., Roberts-Caudle, C. Harper, F. K., & Jones, D. A. (2017). Flint, Michigan, water crisis: Connecting to local issues in mathematics classrooms. Teaching Children Mathematics, 23(9), 518-520.

Selected contributions to Edited Volumes

Harper, F. K. (2020). What’s a fair housing wage? In R. B. Berry III, B. Conway IV, B. R. Lawler, & J. W. Staley (Eds.) High school mathematics lessons to explore, understand, and respond to social injustice (pp. 148-152). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Harper, F. K. & Anderson, B. (2020). “I just get all stressed out”: Coping with perfectionism as a Black gifted girl in mathematics. In N. M. Joseph (Ed.) Understanding the intersections of race, gender, and gifted education: An anthology by and about talented Black girls and women in STEM. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Harper, F. K., Drake, C, Bartell, T. G., & Najarro, E. (2018). “How I want to teach the lesson”: Framing children’s multiple mathematical knowledge bases in the analysis and adaptation of existing curriculum materials. In T. G. Bartell (Ed.), Toward equity and social justice in mathematics education (pp. 241-262). Springer. (Invited; Refereed)

Harper, F. K., Sanchez, W., & Herbel-Eisenmann, B. (2017). Doing mathematics across languages: Exploring possibilities for supporting emergent bilinguals’ mathematical communication and engagement. In S. Kastberg, A. M. Tyminski, A. Lischka, & W. Sanchez (Eds.) Building support for scholarly practices in mathematics methods (pp. 263-277). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Recent Papers published in refereed conference proceedings

Harper, F. K., Stumbo, Z., & Kim, N. (2020). When robots invade the neighborhood: Learning to teach PK-5 mathematics leveraging both technology and community knowledge. Proceedings for the 31st annual conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (pp. 360-367). Online.

Kim, N. & Harper, F. K. (2019). Structured participation promotes access and accountability during cooperative learning in mathematics education. In S. Otten, A. G. de Araujo, C. Haines, & C. Munter (Eds.), Proceedings of the 41st annual meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, St Louis, MO.

Harper, F. K. (2019). Using graphic elicitation methods to talk about social identities and mathematics. Mathematics Education and Society 10, Hyderabad, India.

Recent presentations

Harper, F. K. & Kim, N. (2020, February). Leveraging community funds of knowledge to teach mathematics with technology. Workshop presented at the annual conference of Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, Phoenix, AZ. (Abstract refereed)

Harper, F. K., & Hodge, L. (2019, February). Partnering to support STEM learning for minoritized youth and (future) math teachers. Individual session presented at the annual conference of Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, Orlando, FL.

Guzmán, L., Harper, F. K., Leyva, L., & Raygoza, M. (2019, February). A process of “becoming”: Transitioning into equity, social-justice oriented mathematics teacher educator roles. Symposium presented at the annual conference of Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, Orlando, FL.

Harper, F. K. (2018, November). STEM experiences for girls of Color in urban schools: Considerations for equitable mathematics engagement. Paper presented at a roundtable at the biennial International Conference on Urban Education, Nassau, Bahamas.

External Grants: Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-PI

2021-2026, PI, CAREER: Black and Latinx Parents Leading Change and Advancing Racial Justice in Elementary Mathematics. ($697,306). National Science Foundation (Award #2046856).

2021-2023, PI, Culturally Relevant Robotics: A Family and Teacher Partnership for Computational Thinking in Early Childhood. ($1,000,000) National Science Foundation (Award #2031394).

2019-2021, co-PI, Tennessee Eastern & Appalachian Math Teachers’ Circle. ($2,965). American Institute of Mathematics. 

2018-2019, co-PI, A lesson study supporting elementary teachers with exploring task design and student identity in mathematics. ($1,143). SEC Visiting Faculty Travel Grant Program.


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