Subject Positions: Explaining Exclusion from Mathematics
What unites much of the research into under-achievement or non-participation in particular social groups is the recognition that mathematics is socially and culturally embedded. From a communities of practice viewpoint, this means that learning school mathematics is a matter of entering into a culture of knowing which is not necessarily self-evident and may be more accessible to some learners than others. In addition, assumptions about the nature of mathematics and the identity positions that these assumptions make available exert further constraints on who does mathematics and how. In this section, I will review research which indicates that traditional mathematics teaching and curricula have the effect of denying many learners access to high-status mathematics knowledge. In particular, it denies them access to meaning-making in mathematics,
analysis, girls’ mathematics learning. In Seymour and Hewitt’s work, for example, while both women and men criticized the teaching which they received at college or university level, they responded in different and important ways to the experience, as I described in Chapter 4. One way of explaining women’s particular response to mathematics education is in terms of “ways of knowing” (Belenky et al., 1986). Drawing on feminism of difference, this view involves making a major challenge to conceptions of what doing and knowing mathematics entails. I will suggest that this challenge needs to be extended to recognize that, while it may have an individualized and asocial public epistemological face which is reflected in the communities of practice and their associated identity positions that I have explored in earlier chapters, mathematics is-like any body of knowledge-intrinsically social and connected in nature. It is this aspect of mathematical knowledge that needs to be made visible and accessible to all learners.