Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers (AAMT). GPO Box 1729, Adelaide, South Australia 5001. Tel: +61-8-8363-0288; Fax: +61-8-8362-9288; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: http://www.aamt.edu.au.
Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
The textbook remains a central resource for teaching and learning mathematics in many secondary classrooms, however, its effectiveness is open to question. In this article, the author argues three things: (1) that there can be a substantial disjunction between the assumptions and content of mathematics textbooks and the knowledge and experiences which students draw on in engaging with those texts; (2) that this disjunction applies particularly to those students who are unsuccessful with this form of learning; and (3) that an alternative approach, extending the work of Lave and Wenger (1991) and Wenger (1998) on communities of practice, offers a more inclusive and effective means of promoting mathematical understanding for such students. Forty-three young people took part individually in 20-30 minute semi-structured interviews. The students provided accounts of their experiences of learning mathematics in school and TAFE. Selected excerpts are utilised to demonstrate that shaping of an identity of participation for some students is influenced by the practice of using textbooks in classrooms. Results show that students chose not to participate in their learning because of personal learning difficulties. While this may be the case, a close analysis suggests that these students may never win. That is, despite their efforts to try, learning mathematics from a text, with little or no support from the teacher, just became too difficult. Such taken for granted practices contribute to the maintenance of unequal relations in some mathematics classrooms. In consequence, when students contest or challenge these relations they are either coerced or eliminated from the classroom. In some instances, this exclusion may contribute to students leaving school early. Through this process, students are blamed for their inability to learn, when in fact the opposite may be the case: the taken for granted practice of using textbooks for all learners positions students as have learning difficulties or who are problems in the classroom.