Choosing The Future: Which Mathematics?

Smith, Cathy (2020). Choosing The Future: Which Mathematics? In: Ineson, Gwen and Povey, Hilary eds. Debates in Mathematics Education (2nd edition). Debates in Subject Teaching. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 269–281.



In this chapter I look at two questions that concern policy and research in post-compulsory mathematics. The questions are:

• How can we understand and compare different mathematical courses of study?
• How can we understand students’ choices to study mathematics?

As in most long-lasting education debates, the answers are not simple: they depend on how you approach - and theorise - education, what you think is convincing evidence, and whether you are setting out to understand mathematics in schools or to change it. I discuss these ideas in the context of academic mathematics pathways on offer for 16 year-olds in England. I then introduce some of my own research, arguing more widely that the ways that we understand and try to change school mathematics are not just about mathematics but also about how we view adolescence and progress. These questions will resonate across other national contexts where, for example, issues of choice, identity and ways of being mathematically are intertwined with the structure and variety of mathematics courses and formal assessments available.

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