You are here

Attitudes, Beliefs, Motivation and Identity in Mathematics Education

Gerald A. Goldin, et al.
Springer Open
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
ICME-13 Topical Surveys
[Reviewed by
Brian P. Katz
, on

This pamphlet is a review of the research literature published in the last decade related to the four themes in the title. The authors use these surveys to discuss historical shifts in the way researchers have approached the themes, to point out gaps in the literature, and in some cases to advocate for future research directions. The intended audience is active researchers working with these themes, and I think it would help this group move their research agendas forward.

A reader with less experience in these themes might find this a challenging read; I suggest such a person read the introduction and conclusion first and then read some or all of the essays about individual themes, which are overlapping but written independently. Most of the research discussed involves elementary and secondary students or their teachers, so this piece might be more interesting to people considering those contexts or preparing teachers for them.

As you might suspect from the title, this pamphlet as a whole feels like it combines parallel threads rather than integrating them. There are, however, a few interesting commonalities that appear from reading the whole document. In most of the threads, research began using quantitative analysis of surveys of the thread’s construct, implicitly equating the instruments with the definition of the construct and largely avoiding nuanced methodological and theoretical discussions. As this approach came under scrutiny in each thread, there was a “social turn” towards more interpretive approaches that use contextualized, qualitative methods. In some of the threads, there has been a second component of this shift to coordinate individual and collective versions of each construct. These commonalities are not discussed very explicitly; similarly, while there was significant overlap in the research in the themes, the nature of this overlap was not discussed from a high-level perspective. I do think that these observations point to the audience for the pamphlet: researchers from individual threads who are coming together to discuss this big picture in their work (at ICME-13); other diverse research groups could use the pamphlet as the starting point for a similar conversation.

The introduction points out that gender is not well represented in the pamphlet, and I expected race to be treated more substantially. The connections between these themes and cultural/national identities is acknowledged repeatedly, but I am not in a position to comment on the generalizability of the results. Questions of the long-term stability of these construts within individuals and the nature of their change allow the authors to connect their surveys to challenges in reform and intervention efforts; they conjecture barriers and ask important questions that are clearly worth considering in all domains. This point, about needing to understand these threads to accomplish individual and institutional change in the world, is perhaps the most compelling reason to read this pamphlet.

Brian P Katz is an associate professor at Augustana College (IL). He teaches courses across the undergraduate curriculum, with a preference for courses that meet students at transition points in their mathematical justification processes, that highlight philosophical issues in mathematics, and that prepare teachers to bring the two previous themes into their future classes; his research interests are similar. With Michael Starbird, Brian has published Distilling Ideas: An Introduction to Mathematical Thinking.

See the table of contents in the publisher's webpage.