Relationships with/in Mathematics: Inclusive Mathematics Literacy in Practice
In their review and theoretical framing of recent equity and diversity research, Cobb and Hodge (2002) set out a number of issues which resonate with my overall project in this book in explaining how mathematical identities develop. My primary aim has been to understand how different individuals in the same classroom can develop very different relationships with mathematics, by capturing the complexity of the ways in which they are positioned within mathematics communities and at the same time position themselves within their ongoing narratives or “history-in-person” —“the sediment from past experiences upon which one improvises, using the cultural resources available, in response to the subject positions afforded one in the present” (Holland et al., 1998, p. 18). Similarly, Cobb and Hodge are concerned to explain how:
. . . the gatekeeping role that mathematics plays in students’ access to educational and economic opportunities is not limited to differences in the ways of knowing associated with participation in the practices of different communities. Instead, it also includes difficulties that students experience in reconciling their views of themselves and who they want to become with the identities that they are invited to construct in the mathematics classroom. (p. 249)
This complexity has implications for solutions to the problem of exclusiona recognition of the role of student agency in the process of developing mathematical identities means that this also needs to be taken into account in understanding students’ responses to the way that mathematics is taught. Thus developing classrooms which theoretically enable better access to mathematics is only one side of the story-promoting inclusion also depends on students opting to, or having the ability to, take that access up and to maintain their sense of who they are-or, as I have suggested may be the case for some students, to refigure their sense of self with respect to mathematics. While groups of students who engage in home and local community practices which are valorized within mathematics classrooms may be motivated to accept access,
Thus, Gutiérrez’s work (Gutiérrez, Alvarez, and Hodge observe that their particular recommendations “involve changing the practices of the mathematics classroom to make it possible for students to reconcile the identities that they are invited to construct with types of identities that they value” (p. 277). In this final chapter, I consider the challenges of an inclusive mathematics literacy with these issues in mind.