ERIC Number: ED442673
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 2000-Apr
Central Tensions: A Critical Framework for Examining High School Mathematics and Mathematics Education.
Jacobson, Katrine Gram
High school mathematics (beginning with algebra) is widely regarded as the "gatekeeper" to college. It is also the subject students in U.S. public schools fail most often. As the standards movement gains momentum, students who are members of subordinated populations continue to perform worse on standardized measures of mathematical skill than do their mainstream peers. Fundamentally linked to these problems is the nature of mathematics education and the popular notion of "mathematics" as a discipline. Mathematics education research has never viewed equity as a central concern, the "objective" nature of mathematics in general has never called for examination of the complex political, economic, and ideological forces that shape the terrain of mathematics education in public schools. This study uses a variety of statistical and ethnographic techniques to illustrate ways in which traditional high school mathematics education supports hegemony and maintenance of the status quo. The study uses multiple regressions, analysis of variance, and path analysis to investigate students' attitudes toward mathematics and to explore factors contributing to success in mathematics. The more math students take, the more they resist the subject and the less it appears useful in everyday life. The study relies upon a critical awareness of the social contexts of both mathematics and mathematics education research to contrast "radical" mathematics education with "traditional" mathematics education. Focus group interviews with students, interviews with teachers, and transcript analysis suggest that teacher expectations of student ability have a strong effect on students' mathematical confidence. Confidence, in turn, is a key determinant of students' success or failure in school mathematics. Teachers tend to equate mathematics "ability" with the display of appropriate behaviors. Tracking students into college-prep and non-college-prep courses of study continues to fundamentally limit student opportunity. Finally, a case study illustrates the challenges of implementing policy measures grounded in a critical mathematics education paradigm. Math teachers must always consider the larger societal context in which they practice mathematics education if they are to understand the problematic role that subject plays in the education of students, especially those who are members of subordinated groups. (Contains 253 references.) (Author/ASK)
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (New Orleans, LA, April, 24-28, 2000).