Telling choices: an exploration of the gender imbalance in participation in advanced mathematics courses in England

Mendick, Heather Fiona. 2004. Telling choices: an exploration of the gender imbalance in participation in advanced mathematics courses in England. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

In this thesis I address the research question: how is it that people come to choose mathematics and in what ways is this process gendered? This question arises out of the on-going gendered pattern of participation in mathematics beyond compulsory education in England and out of wider concerns about the ways in which inequalities are reproduced through individuals' choices. I draw on the findings of a qualitative research project, involving interviews with 43 young people (all but one aged between 16 and 19) and observations of their AS-level mathematics classes. The research participants are drawn from seven classes in three London institutions: a comprehensive school, a sixth form college and a further education college. Working within a framework drawing on feminism, post-structuralism and psychoanalysis, I argue that identity in general, and gender in particular, is a project and one that is achieved in interaction with others. By analysing the interviews as narratives of self, I examine in detail the ways in which choosing to do or to reject mathematics can become part of this project; that is how this choice can be read as a way of doing gender. I analyse the ways that students work the socio-cultural discourses about mathematics into their own identity work. The discourses that are most central to this process construct mathematics as 'hard', a proof of intelligence, certain, objective, associated with genius, and a signifier of social incompetence. I argue that these are oppositional and gendered. They inscribe mathematics as masculine. Thus they make it more problematic for girls and women to identify with the subject and so to succeed at and to choose it.

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Thesis (Doctoral)

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mathematics, gendered pattern, inequalities, London



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Date Deposited:

26 Jul 2023 13:17

Last Modified:

08 Aug 2023 15:12


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