Evolving Mathematical Identity for Post-Secondary Students
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Mathematics encompasses more than formulas, theorems and proofs. For many, mathematics can be a way of life or even a culture and like within any culture, an individual who associates with that culture has an identity: a description of how one knows and sees oneself with respect to the norms and members of the culture. However, it can be argued the mathematical culture has barriers to entry by members of certain groups. These barriers are built upon stereotypes and biases and these biases and stereotypes are now controlling who can enter the discipline and how they do so (Burton, 2009. Students often enter post-secondary education with these stereotypical views of mathematics that they have picked up from their K-12 education. These views place a minimal value on mathematics and in turn making students less inclined to join the mathematics community. Therefore, traditional classrooms may not be the best venues for acculturating the students into mathematics. Traditional pedagogies and procedural views of mathematics combine to produce environments in which most students must surrender agency and thought in order to follow predetermined routines (Boaler, 1997; Schoenfeld, 1988, 1992). That is why investigating how a social environment through a student mathematics seminar for post-secondary students facilitates a student’s acculturation into mathematics and perhaps diminishes the stereotypes and biases of the mathematics culture was pursued in this study. By observing four post-secondary student in a series of presentations, it was determined how mathematical identity could be affected within four particular aspects of identity: position, self-efficacy, perceptions of mathematics, and forms of engagement.