London Metropolitan University Research Institutes


Mathematical Images and Identities: Education, entertainment, social justice

Funded by

the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)


April 2006 - June 2007


This project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and conducted jointly by researchers at London Metropolitan and Cardiff universities. It concerned how popular cultural images of maths and mathematicians are used, the relationships that learners construct with the subject and their gendered/classed/ethnic identities as 'mathematicians' or 'non-mathematicians'. The starting points were:

  • Growing drop-out from post-compulsory maths and higher failure rates in maths than other subjects.
  • Growing evidence that people are opting out of and/or failing maths because of ethnicity, class and gender.
  • Research showing that most young people do not feel that the image of maths is compatible with their 'identity'.

Using a discursive approach, the research took place with Year 10 - 11 GCSE students and second - third year maths and humanities undergraduates. Both groups were about a year away from key choice points. This created the opportunity to look at whether and how popular culture is deployed in their choices to stay with or leave maths. A questionnaire was conducted with approximately 700 school and university students to elicit information about which contemporary popular cultural forms were most significant for them. Using the questionnaire findings, an archive of popular images of mathematicians and maths was built up and analysed. 20 focus groups were then held and 56 participants were individually interviewed.

Click here for main project website


Project Team

Heather Mendick

Marie-Pierre Moreau

Debbie Epstein, Cardiff University


Heather Mendick -


   Company Information    Page last updated 27 February 2008     Contact Page Owner (Angela Kamara)