Choosing post-compulsory mathematics : a comparative study of students’ accounts of choosing mathematics in Norway and England


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Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus. Fakultet for lærerutdanning og internasjonale studier

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Master i skolerettet utdanningsvitenskap


The purpose of this master thesis is to interpret and compare Norwegian and English students’ accounts of choosing post-compulsory mathematics, to try to recognize cultural differences and similarities in the students’ stories. Therefore, my research questions are: What cultural differences and similarities are visible in English and Norwegian students’ accounts of choosing mathematics? - What cultural models of gender and education do they draw on? - How do they self-author as students of mathematics? I took a qualitative approach with semi-structured interviews with 15 students studying post-compulsory mathematics in Norway and England. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed using theory from Bakhtin (1981, 1986), Gee (2012) and Sfard and Prusak (2005a, 2005b). These theorists tell us that narratives can be understood as identities, and that through self-authoring we draw on cultural models and tools to explain ourselves to ourselves and others. In the analysis, I focus on how the students position themselves and others and are positioned by the social practices they participate in, and the discourses and cultural models they draw on. The focus is on showing how the students’ answers increase in complexity from initial and seemingly rational answers of why they have chosen mathematics, to more complex stories revealing prevalent and sometimes contradicting discourses and influence from cultural models and significant others. My analysis of the students’ stories will show that actually choice is not just a question of ‘I’m doing this because it’s good for my career’ but ‘I’m doing this because of the person I am’. This study shows how there are more cultural similarities in the students’ accounts of choosing post-compulsory mathematics than differences, both between the individual accounts and between the two groups of students. This report shows how choice is far more complex than many says, and I ask the question if choice is so complex that in a way maybe it doesn’t make any sense to talk about or use the word choice at all.


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