Discourses of time and maturity structuring participation in mathematics and further mathematics

Smith, Cathy (2020). Discourses of time and maturity structuring participation in mathematics and further mathematics. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 41(2) pp. 160–177.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2019.1697206

Abstract

This paper examines how young people account for choosing mathematical subjects, and how these processes sustain, or not, their continued participation. It draws on a 2-year qualitative study of 24 young peoples’ accounts of following advanced mathematical pathways within a widening participation programme. Working within a poststructural framework, I combine two arguments: firstly, that local discourses of time, age and maturity position contemporary adolescence as a time of ‘becoming’ that aligns personal aspirations with mathematical progress, and secondly that students’ accounts of choice and aspiration require multiple imaginings of present and future selves. I identify distinct discourses –moving/improving and getting ahead - that structure the intelligibility of participation in mathematics and further mathematics respectively. I argue that tracing the alignments between students’ accounts of themselves and/in mathematics offers potential to understand emergent practices in mathematics participation but also how exclusions are re-inscribed along classed and gendered lines.

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