Masculinities in Mathematics

Masculinities in Mathematics

Masculinities in Mathematics

Masculinities in Mathematics

Synopsis

"The book speaks to me as one of those texts that will become seminal in mathematics education. It is original, refreshing, and despite a complicated plot, points to some ways forward. It is engagingly written, if at times perhaps a little bit no-nonsense in tone. It will be of interest to teachers and teacher educators, as well as providing a theoretical stance that should inform future research." Review from BERJ, 2007 The study of mathematics, together with other 'gendered' subjects such as science and engineering, usually attracts more male than female pupils, particularly at more advanced levels. In this book Heather Mendick explores this phenomenon, addressing the important question of why more boys than girls choose to study mathematics. She combines new research with an original theoretical approach to argue that 'doing mathematics is doing masculinity'. The book illuminates what studying mathematics means for both students and teachers and offers a broad range of insights into students' views and practices. In addition to the words of young people learning mathematics, the masculinity of mathematics is explored through historical material and cinematic representations. Heather Mendick discusses the ways in which the alignment of mathematics with masculinity creates tensions for girls and women doing the subject. These tensions are sensitively explored through interviews with young men and women, to show how doing mathematics fits or conflicts with their gender identities. Finally, the book explores the implications for teachers, including ways to promote gender equity in mathematics education. This is key reading for students on courses in gender and education, mathematics education, gender and curriculum, and social justice.

Excerpt

Educating boys is currently seen - both globally and locally - to be in crisis. In fact, there is long history to the question: what about the boys? However, it was not until the 1990s that the question of boys' education became a matter of public and political concern in a large number of countries around the world, most notably the UK, the USA and Australia.

There are a number of different approaches to be found in the literature to troubling questions about boys in schools. The questions concern the behaviours and identities of boys in schools, covering areas such as school violence and bullying, homophobia, sexism and racism, through to questions about boys' perceived underachievement. In Failing Boys? Issues in Gender and Achievement, Epstein and her colleagues (Epstein et al. 1998) identify three specific discourses which are called upon in popular and political discussions of the schooling of boys: 'poor boys'; 'failing schools, failing boys'; and 'boys will be boys'. They suggest that it might be more useful to draw, instead, on feminist and profeminist insights in order to understand what is going on in terms of gender relations between boys and girls and amongst boys. An important question, they suggest, is what kind of masculinities are being produced in schools, in what ways, and how do they impact upon the education of boys. In other words, there is an urgent need to place boys' educational experiences within the wider gender relations within the institution and beyond.

This series is one that falls squarely within the last of these broad categories. In the plethora of rather simplistic and often counterproductive 'solutions' (such as making classrooms more 'boy-friendly' in macho ways) which are coming from governments in different part of the English-speaking world and from some of the more populist writers in the area (e.g. Steve Biddulph), there is an urgent need for a more thoughtful approach to the issues raised by what are quite longstanding problems in the schooling of boys. Approaches by policy . . .

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