An investigation of lower secondary pupils' images of mathematics and mathematicians
This thesis reports on a three-part research project in which the images of mathematics and mathematicians held by lower secondary pupils were investigated. A survey tool which asked pupils to draw a picture of a mathematician at work, and which included a Likert-type scale and open-ended writing prompts, was designed and developed for use in an international study of pupils in five countries (n = 476). The results indicate that while some pupils hold stereotypical images in common, all pupils appear to know very little about mathematicians and the work they do. Mathematicians' invisibility to pupils of this age appears to affect their images of mathematics. The tool was refined and utilised again as part of two interventions in the United States: the first attempted to see if images would be affected by a unit in graph theory and discrete mathematics topics (n = 28); the second brought pupils (n = 174) together with a panel of mathematicians. Each intervention had different strengths, but both widened pupils' views of mathematics, enabling them to see it as more than just a study of numbers. In a third small study, professionals in the mathematics field (n = 106) from ten countries were asked in a short survey to comment on Who is a mathematician? and Who may call oneself one? Findings of this portion of the study indicate a lack of a unified vision among members of the mathematics community and some evidence of an elitism which would restrict who may define themselves as a mathematician.