Comparing theoretical perspectives in describing mathematics departments: complexity and activity

Beswick, Kim; Watson, Anne and De Geest, Els (2010). Comparing theoretical perspectives in describing mathematics departments: complexity and activity. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 75(2) pp. 153–170.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10649-010-9248-3

Abstract

We draw on two studies of mathematics departments in 11–18 comprehensive maintained schools in England to compare and contrast the insights provided by differing theoretical perspectives. In one study, activity theory was used to describe common features of the work of three departments. In the other, a mathematics department was viewed and analysed as a complex system. In both cases, it was the learning of the departments as systems rather than of individuals that was of interest. The affordances and limitations of the analytical perspectives are discussed. Taken as a whole, this paper opens up the workings of school mathematics departments in a country which has a strong department culture.

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