Psychological Imprisonment or Intellectual Freedom? A Longitudinal Study of Contrasting School Mathematics Approaches and Their Impacton Adults' Lives

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  • 1 Stanford University
  • 2 University of Utah

In a previous study of 2 schools in England that taught mathematics very differently, the first author found that a project-based mathematics approach resulted in higher achievement, greater understanding, and more appreciation of mathematics than a traditional approach. In this follow-up study, the first author contacted and interviewed a group of adults 8 years after they had left the 2 schools to investigate their knowledge use in life. This showed that the young adults who had experienced the 2 mathematics teaching approaches developed profoundly different relationships with mathematics knowledge that contributed towards the shaping of different identities as learners and users of mathematics (Boaler & Greeno, 2000). The adults from the project-based school had also moved into significantly more professional jobs, despite living in one of the lowest income areas of the country. In this article, we consider the different opportunities that the 2 school approaches offered for longterm relationships with mathematics and different forms of mathematical expertise that are differentially useful in the 21st century (Hatano & Oura, 2003).

Contributor Notes

Jo Boaler, School of Education, Stanford University, 520 Galvez Mall, Stanford, CA 94305-3084;

Sarah Kate Selling, Department of Education, Culture, and Society, University of Utah, 1721 E. Campus Center Drive, SAEC 3286, Salt Lake City, UT 84112;

(Corresponding author is Boaler author is Selling
Journal for Research in Mathematics Education


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