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Seminar by Dr Laura Black (University of Manchester) Deepening Engagement in Mathematical Learning: A question of ‘identity’?

This seminar will focus on the concept of identity and its value for exploring both engagement in learning and alienation from formal schooling. I will draw on work from across our research projects which have looked at students’ relationships with mathematics in a variety of contexts, including post 16 A-level mathematics, mathematically demanding programmes at university and more recently in early primary school (aged 5-6 years old). I will argue that identity provides a useful way to understand how our experiences ‘in practice’ become crystallised (through reflection) into statements about who we are as a person – for example, ‘I did this well’ may become ‘maths makes sense to me’ and eventually ‘I am gifted at maths’. Our work in this area has considered how students’ mathematical identities are mediated by practices which are classed, gendered etc. Therefore, in this seminar, I will argue that researching ‘identity’ is not merely a matter of addressing the STEM agenda by increasing engagement (and participation) in mathematically related subjects, but rather it can provide a lens through which to study the function mathematics plays in re-producing broader social inequalities in education.

Event details

Biographical Note: Laura Black is Senior Lecturer in the Manchester Institute for Education at the University of Manchester. Her research interests focus on learner identities in mathematics and their relationship with social class, gender, ethnicity and family aspirational narratives. She has worked on two major ESRC funded ‘Transmaths’ projects which looked at young people’s developing identities in relation to mathematics and STEM subjects at post 16 years and as they transition into university (see ). This work has mainly focused on narrative analysis of interviews with adolescents and has looked at how engagement with mathematics is linked to future aspirations (a leading identity). More recently,she has been researching mathematical identifications with young children (aged 5 to 6) from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, focusing on the contradictions and alignment between embedded ‘home’ mathematics and the formal school curriculum. Recent publications can be found at


A recording of this seminar is now available

Laura_Black_Exeter_seminar_presentation.pdfLaura Black powerpoint presentation 2018 (1425K)


Baring Court 114