How math makes cents: The marketization of mathematics education discourse

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Author: Lee, Peter
The effects of free market capitalism and neoliberal policies on mathematics education have been a growing topic of interest within the sociopolitical dimension of the field. However, few studies examine how market forces directly affect discourses within the mathematics classroom. Using the concept of marketization defined as the discursive aspects of commodification and promotion, this study examines a corpus of mathematics posters and worksheets for how they are transformed by market influences. The notion of genre is used to help identify the significant and stable features of these discourse samples. Critical realism, whose core tenets are ontological realism, epistemic relativism, and judgemental rationality, serves as the metatheoretical approach in investigating marketization as a causal mechanism. Methods of data analysis include abductive and retroductive logics of discovery as well as tools drawn from critical discourse analysis, such as those inspired by Norman Fairclough and Theo van Leeuwen. Particular attention is given to the multimodal nature of posters and worksheets such as visual images, layout, and colour. The analysis suggests that marketization affects both the way mathematics education is represented in posters and worksheets as well as the affordances and opportunities they provide for learning. For example, promotional aspects of posters can have the effect of giving greater value to certain mathematical concepts (e.g., multiplication) and legitimizing particular ways they are to be taught (e.g., with a chart). Likewise, promotional culture can infiltrate worksheets by appropriating their visual features, incorporating puzzle mechanics, or technologizing them through generators. Both the poster and worksheet genres tend to commodify aspects of school mathematics by breaking concepts down into consumable parts. It is suggested that mathematics education genres such as posters and worksheets can be innovated to align closer with basic human desires such as beauty, power, and community rather than the neoliberal values of efficiency, competition, and individualism.
190 pages.
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Copyright is held by the author(s).
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Sinclair, Nathalie
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