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Details for publication #60:

2006 - Symposium paper

Imagined futures: mediation of the mathematical biography
Black, L.

Narrative inquiry has recently emerged as a constructive tool in the analysis of mathematical identity (Kaasila 2007). This paper presents the stories of two AS level students (aged 16-17 years), Mary and Lee, who were interviewed as part of a larger project on widening participation in mathematics education. The stories told by these students illustrate various modes of positioning with or against mathematics and highlight how one might narrate oneself as some kind of 'maths person' or 'anti-maths person'. For instance, Lee, finds himself marginalised from mathematics due to his institutional position as a 'struggling' student and consequently draws on the notion that 'maths is irrelevant' to his career trajectory in order to reconcile a sense of 'not belonging'. We argue that the notion of a 'leading identity' in the student's narrative appears to be pertinent for some - this is the imagined 'identity' of the future which appears significant in 'leading' the individual's development (derived from the concept of leading activity from Stetsenko & Arievitch 2004, Leontev 1981). Whilst some students have a clear sense of a leading identity from an early age, others are 'living in the moment' and may only narrow their possible futures at certain critical moments (e.g. in completing their UCAS form). We conclude that pedagogic and institutional practices can be crucial to sustaining or hindering a particular 'leading identity' - they may resource possible futures or narrow them depending on the positionings they offer students as learners of mathematics.

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