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Equity, empowerment and different ways of knowing

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This paper considers the experiences of two sets of students who attended schools that taught mathematics in completely different ways. One of the schools used a traditional, textbook approach, and the other used an open, project-based approach. The latter approach produced equity between girls and boys whereas the textbook approach prompted many of the girls to under achieve. This paper will consider the experiences of girls and boys who followed the project-based approach, reflect upon the sources of equity within this approach and relate the differences between the two approaches to Gilligan’s notions of “separate” and “connected” knowing.

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... In other words, they are receiving a form of mathematics education that is inferior to what they could be receiving under reform. Boaler's (1997aBoaler's ( , 1997bBoaler's ( , 1997c research with high-performing students suggests that students in traditional mathematics classrooms neither retain for very long the information they have learned nor can they explain in real-world or conceptual terms what they are doing in mathematics. In her 3-year study, she found that students who learned in reform-oriented classrooms did as well on tests of basic skills and better on tests of conceptual skills than their peers who learned in traditional mathematics classrooms. ...
... This level of analysis would take into consideration such uncertainties as how students will respond to a given practice. For example, Boaler (1997a) suggested that students who tend to do well in traditional (basic) school mathematics tend to be the most opposed to their teachers changing their practices. So, understanding how teachers might anticipate or respond to student opposition would be included in a focus on teacher practice. ...
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In this article, I address the need for a more clearly articulated research agenda around equity issues by proposing a working definition of equity and a focal point for research. More specifically, I assert that rather than pitting them against each other, we must coordinate (a) efforts to get marginalized students to master what currently counts as "dominant" mathematics with (b) efforts to develop a critical perspective among all students about knowledge and society in ways that ultimately facilitate (c) a positive relationship between mathematics, people, and equity on the planet. I make this argument partly by reviewing the literature on (school) contexts that engage marginalized students in mathematics. Then, I argue that the place that holds the most promise for addressing equity is a research agenda that emphasizes enabling the practice of teachers and that draws more heavily on design-based and action research, thereby redefining what the practice of mathematics means along the way. Specific research questions are offered.
... This sense of a collective in terms of the generation of the mathematical arguments and the distributed authority that comes along with it is in contrast to the pervasive perception of the field of mathematics. This perception of mathematics as a body of knowledge passed from the teacher to students is often a barrier to students experiencing a sense of mathematical agency (Boaler, 1997). ...
... As discussed in detail in Goodell (1998), several recent studies have shown the effectiveness of connected teaching (e.g. Boaler (1997) in two UK schools; Silver, Smith and Nelson (1995) in the QUASAR project in the US; Knapp, Shields and Turnbull (1995) in a study of 140 teachers in high-poverty US elementary classrooms; Rogers (1990;) in relation to college-level mathematics; and Tate (1995) in a study of one teacher's success in providing meaning to mathematics through students' exploration of a problem of immediate relevance to them (viz., the close proximity of their school to a number of liquor stores). ...
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In this chapter we develop, from the literature on reform in mathematics education, a detailed operational definition of the essential features of an equitable mathematics classroom. We examine the documented reasons for gender differences in enrolment and performance in mathematics courses, discuss research into explanations for these differences, then critique initiatives which have been designed to encourage females to continue with the study of mathematics. Our analysis focuses on three main elements: students, classroom practices, and the curriculum. From the above analysis, we distil a definition of what, given contemporary evidence from practice and research, appears to be the ideal "Connected Equitable Mathematics Classroom" (CEMC). Following this definition, we explore, through data from a large-scale reform project in the USA, the possibilities and limits of implementation of the CEMC by mathematics teachers. We conclude the chapter with a short discussion of the implications of this work for reformers and equity advocates.
... In the process, several qualitative data analysis (QDA) techniques were employed. Although the use of grounded theory in mathematics education research is not novel (see, for example, Boaler, 1997a;Galbraith, 1995;Nardi, 1996;Shield, 1995), this usually follows the classical method of Glaser and Strauss (1967) which is a strongly inductive emergent approach which produces "a theoretical formulation or integrated set of conceptual hypotheses" to be tested or verified by followup quantitative research (Glaser, 1992, p. 16). With the reformulated method, the research product is constructed rather than emergent from the data, and verification of hypotheses occurs throughout the construction process, without the substantial use of quantitative techniques. ...
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