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Title: Parents, children and primary school mathematics : experiences, identity and activity
Author: Newton, R.
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2012
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Parental involvement in children’s learning plays a significant role in attainment in primary school. However, in the case of mathematics, a core subject in the primary school curriculum, research suggests that parents face a number of barriers to involvement. Following an approach informed by the sociocultural theory, this project aimed to investigate parental involvement in children’s school mathematical learning through a focus upon experiences, identity and activity. Twenty-four parent-child pairs took part in the study. The children were all aged between 7 and 11 years old and attended primary schools in the UK. Parents took part in a semi-structured episodic interview and parent-child dyads were observed completing a 20-minute simulated school mathematical activity. Data analysis consisted of four phases. Firstly, interview responses were subjected to a thematic analysis to examine parental experiences of: (1) school mathematics, (2) parent-child mathematical activity, and (3) home-school communication. Secondly, the interview transcripts were analysed using dialogical self theory to investigate mathematical identity. This concentrated on how parents constructed a mathematical ‘self’, to describe themselves, and a mathematical ‘other’, to describe their children. Thirdly, the observations of parent-child mathematical activity were analysed for mathematical goals, contingency and scaffolding. Finally, the results of the second and third phases were compared to study the relationship between identity and goals. Analysis of parental experiences extended existing academic research in a number of areas. This included parental interaction strategies, particularly propinquity, and barriers to parental involvement, for instance divergent mathematical understandings. Uniquely, in applying dialogical self theory to study mathematical identity, this research showed how the mathematical ‘self’ and ‘other’ shift spatially and chronologically through participation in sociocultural activity. Identity formation was also shown to be a reflexive process that embraced a range of diverse social influences. Mathematical goals were seen to form and shift due to the activity structure, artefacts and conventions of the task, social interaction between the dyad, and the prior experience parents and children brought to the task. Analysing parentchild school mathematical interaction in this manner provides a distinctive contribution to understanding a widespread, but poorly understood social practice. The final stage of analysis indicated that the mathematical identities parents assigned to children more closely match the goals in parent-child mathematical activity than the mathematical identities parents constructed for themselves. The original and important findings generated by this project provide distinct implications for academics, educators and others working with parents and children.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available