Choosing more mathematics: happiness through work?

Smith, Cathy (2010). Choosing more mathematics: happiness through work? Research in Mathematics Education, 12(2) pp. 99–115.



This paper examines how A-level students construct relationships between work and happiness in their accounts of choosing mathematics and further mathematics A-level. I develop a theoretical framework that positions work and happiness as opposed, managed and working on the self and use this to examine students' dual engagement with individual practices of the self and institutional practices of school mathematics. Interviews with students acknowledge four imperatives that they use as discursive resources to position themselves as successful/unsuccessful students: you have to work, you have to not work, you have to be happy, you have to work at being happy. Tensions in these positions lead students to rework their identities or drop further mathematics. I then identify the practices of mathematics teaching that students use to explain un/happiness in work, and show how dependable mathematics and working together are constructed as ‘happy objects’ for students, who develop strategies for claiming control over these shapers of happiness.

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