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“It's nothing personal”: Competing discourses for girls and women in mathematics

Shannon D Bryant, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation used a post-structural feminist theoretical lens to examine women's under-representation in mathematics graduate programs and careers. Five dominant discourses that potentially influence women's decision to enter mathematical careers were discussed, including how those discourses interact in competing and complementary ways to shape women's and men's ideas about the nature of mathematics. The study investigated the long-term impact of a single-sex reform-based summer mathematics program on high school girls. The study utilized a variety of data collection techniques including surveys, field observations, phenomenological interviews, and artifact collection. Nine participants who were enrolled in a summer mathematics program for high school girls in 2000 were purposefully selected to best represent the overall population of program participants during that time period. Results of this study indicate that these women rejected the traditional procedural way that mathematics was taught to them. They saw mathematics as irrelevant and had very little knowledge of potential careers in mathematics. However, the findings of this study suggest that programs like the one studied here can have positive outcomes on girls' academic performance, their perceptions of their own math ability, and their perceptions of mathematics as field of study. Overall, this study allows researchers to better understand the lived experiences of women in mathematics, hopefully leading to a more dynamic model that can begin to explain how competing discourses influence girls' and women's decision to enter mathematics careers. Based on these findings, recommendations for changes in teaching practice are discussed.

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Womens studies|Secondary education|Gender studies

Recommended Citation

Bryant, Shannon D, "“It's nothing personal”: Competing discourses for girls and women in mathematics" (2011). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3461992.