‘Sometimes I Think Wow I’m Doing Further Mathematics…’: Balancing Tensions Between Aspiring and Belonging

Smith, Cathy (2011). ‘Sometimes I Think Wow I’m Doing Further Mathematics…’: Balancing Tensions Between Aspiring and Belonging. In: Atweh, Bill; Graven, Mellony; Secada, Walter and Valero, Paola eds. Mapping Equity and Quality in Mathematics Education. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 285–298.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-9803-0_20

Abstract

What can the particular context of ‘further mathematics’ tell us about conceptions of quality and equity in mathematics education and their changing interactions over time? Further mathematics A-level is a traditional gate-keeper qualification in the United Kingdom, but many state schools lack the resources to teach it. A national project to widen participation has promoted further mathematics and allowed students to opt in to out-of-school classes. In this chapter, I argue that choosing further mathematics links quality and equity to understandings of the self as individual project and narrative. I show how the promotional texts of further mathematics use metaphors to sustain and address tensions between quality and equity. Drawing on interviews with one student, I identify how these representations of further mathematics intersect with liberal ‘practices of the self’. I argue that quality as depth is a powerful construction that inevitably disables students from understanding themselves as belonging within further mathematics.

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