The interviews, which lasted from about 25 minutes to over 1 hour in length, were audiorecorded and transcribed. Participants chose their own pseudonyms.

We analysed the interviews thematically, dividing the two groups of participants into those who had chosen or were planning to choose mathematics and those who had/were not. Within each group, we looked at the patterns of responses and discourses. We then made connections across the themes. This chapter is an example of one such set of connections. In the fi rst section, we outline our discursive approach to choice and identity. In the second section, we look at the reasons the school and university students gave for all of their subject choices, and we show the centrality of enjoyment, ‘ability’, and identity to these. We argue that the centrality of these three factors to people’s choices relates to particular understandings of the self and, specifi cally, to whether, through choice, one can realise the neoliberal imperative to ‘be somebody’. In the next section, we look specifi cally at mathematics and ask in what ways such selves can choose this subject. We do this by focusing on the 11 interviews with mathematics undergraduates. We show that their choice of mathematics relies on the way that a position as mathematically able confers an identity as different and special. This has consequences for mathematics and society: it excludes many people from mathematics and disproportionately excludes particular groups. It does this because difference/specialness relies on discourses that not everyone can do mathematics, and we show how these are held in place by boundary keeping practices around mathematics.