chapter  6
14 Pages

Creating Spaces: Identity and Community Beyond the First Year

In Chapters 3, 4 and 5, I have shown that while many learners may be successful in mathematics they nevertheless see themselves as existing only on the margins of the practice, or as lacking stability in it-in this sense, they have what can be called a fragile identity. Although this is by no means the sole province of girls and women, they do appear to express such fragile identities more often or at least more readily. In Chapter 4 in particular, I have observed that an analysis based on communities of practice does not appear to explain the anomaly of women who can be characterized as engaged learners-more engaged than many of their male classmates-and yet have identities of non-participation. I have suggested that these differences are underpinned by discursive positionings which inscribe learners’ relationships with mathematics in particular ways, and that student responses to these are gendered-this pattern not only appears in my own data but in that of other researchers, most obviously Seymour and Hewitt’s. In this chapter, I explore the range of identities within the undergraduate community of practice in more detail, drawing on the second-and third-year joint interviews and focus groups at Farnden and Middleton universities. As the students talk, joke, and tell stories about being a mathematics student, it is possible to see how they draw on particular, now familiar, discourses in their positioning of self, other students, and tutors.