Sociocultural context of young adolescent girls' motivation for school mathematics : an ethnographic case study
Lim, Jae Hoon
MetadataShow full item record
This is an ethnographic case study examining the sociocultural context of young adolescent girls' motivation for school mathematics. In particular, I explored various sociocultural influences, such as the impact of class, ethnicity, gender, and instructional structures and practices in school, on their motivation. Data were derived from regular observations in one school of two sixth grade mathematics classes, one advanced and the other regular, and repeated interviews with seven female students and their mathematics teacher. I also used archival data obtained from the participating students, teacher, and many others, including school administrators. The data analysis portrayed contrasting pictures of young adolescent girls who came from different ethnic, economic, and cultural backgrounds. Even though they shared the same mathematics teacher and school environment, their experiences with school mathematics significantly diverged from one another’s. In general, findings from this study reveal the profound impact of social/cultural capital upon the girls’ experiences with school mathematics, as well as their construction of identities in the discipline. One of the central themes that emerged from this study is a conflict between different ways of structuring and practicing school mathematics. The participating girls responded differently to the cultural environment of their mathematics classroom, and the ideologies that structured interpersonal relationships and ways of mathematics learning in the space. As a whole, their mathematics classes reflected the “justice principle,” which emphasized a clear representation of rules, and equal applications of those rules for disciplinary and instructional purposes. Rewards and punishments were given as consequences of an individual’s attitudes and behaviors. Yet, girls from minority and working class backgrounds deeply doubted the fairness of such classroom and school practices and felt troubled with the justice principle. Based on their lived experiences of unjust justice at the school and other places, these girls rather advocated “an ethic of care” as a primary principle in their mathematics classroom: Through the ethic of care the girls highlighted mutual responsibility for each other, particularly those vulnerable and most in need, and contextual understanding of each situation rather than blind impartiality. Though located under the influx of various sociocultural forces, girls in this study were not mere scapegoats of negative or unfavorable social influences from outside, but active agents who voluntarily chose an ideology that seemed to best benefit themselves. Each participant showed the unique interrelationships and dynamics among the various cultural ideologies she was exposed to, subscribed to, elaborated on, expanded, or resisted in their everyday lives. Their multi-layered, sometimes contradictory, voices reflected their deeply embedded desires and hopes as well as their ongoing struggles to move toward a possible model of learning mathematics that had not yet been actualized in their realities.