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Re-Crafting Mathematics Education
- Kate Chapman
- Kylie Peppler
Despite significant gains in K-12 mathematics achievement, females(1) in the United States are still underrepresented in STEM careers. While many researchers have focused on individual traits of women and girls that might contribute to promoting persistence in these areas, others have taken a broader approach to look at the social practices that routinely exclude women from masculinized spaces. We follow this perspective, and use an interactionist view of identification to shed light on this mechanism. To accomplish this, we take as a starting point the practices of textile crafts, which themselves involve mathematics, but which have traditionally been understood as feminized. In this analysis, we compare six women’s experiences in math classrooms to their experiences in crafting communities with an eye to what differences in these identification processes might contribute to broader sex-linked differences in participation.
This work is part of a larger project examining mathematical practices within traditional textile crafts, and how they might be leveraged in middle school classrooms. Through interrogating the practices of expert knitters, we determined that much of the mathematics was most salient—at least in explicit form—in designing projects. While designing is often reserved for more expert knitters, this study sought to determine whether novice knitters could begin designing from the outset, and if so how the knitting might become a resource for the proportional reasoning necessary for designing patterns.
In this paper, we present a set of case studies of the mathematics that youth engaged when learning to knit and designing a simple rectangle. We present a range of experiences with knitting, and explore whether and how this manipulative can support and push students' proportional thinking. We consider the potential of this textile practice in the classroom, and whether the potential reach of these manipulatives make their high entry bar a worthwhile use of instructional time.