This research concerns the low and inequitable participation of young people in mathematics and science. Relationships students form with knowledge are critical to their engagement and their decisions to continue with subjects. Four domains within knowledge relationships have so far been identified: the agency students believe they have as they work (the opportunities they perceive to ask questions, use their own ideas, connect different ideas and explore); the authority they turn to as they work; their interest in the subjects; and their beliefs about the nature of the subjects.
This research will further investigate knowledge relationships, and the ways that they impact on student choices and their identities as learners, with a particular focus on gender equity. The research will identify schools that are particularly successful and less successful in encouraging students in general, young women in particular, to take mathematics and science. Extensive observations and interviews will identify conditions under which productive participation is encouraged, and explore the knowledge relationships that students form in different circumstances. In subsequent years young people will be tracked into their universities to monitor their experiences and decisions in university mathematics and science departments.
These two studies will be framed by a third study of the ways that mathematics and science are portrayed in the media and other public representations, and the impact of such images on young people's choices. Wide and effective dissemination will result in recommendations for changes that could have a significant impact on the numbers of young people choosing to study mathematics and science in the future.
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