chapter  2
32 Pages

Experiencing Mathematics: Building Classroom Cultures and Mathematics Histories

What are the origins of our relationships with mathematics? We know that many learners shy away from mathematics, seeing it as an activity in which they fail, or fear to fail, while others associate it with excitement or comfortmathematics appears to engender strong emotions (Black, Mendick, & Solomon, forthcoming; Breen, 2000; Buxton, 1981; Evans, 2000; Ma, 2003; Nimier, 1993)—it seems that very few people are indifferent to it, having a story to tell which may be positive or negative: they are unlikely to have no story at all. In this chapter, I will examine the crucial elements in the classroom community of practice which contribute to this range of relationships and the potential for development of identities of participation for some learners but not for others. Drawing initially on primary school data to illustrate the available range of identity choices that learners have in this environment, I will suggest that the ways in which students are able to engage with mathematics are shaped by the Discourses (in Gee’s 1996, 1999 sense) of which they are a part and, further, that these Discourses intersect in complex ways which may have far-reaching consequences.