On Aspects of Mathematical Reasoning : Affect and Gender

Sammanfattning: This thesis explores two aspects of mathematical reasoning: affect and gender. I started by looking at the reasoning of upper secondary students when solving tasks. This work revealed that when not guided by an interviewer, algorithmic reasoning, based on memorising algorithms which may or may not be appropriate for the task, was predominant in the students reasoning. Given this lack of mathematical grounding in students reasoning I looked in a second study at what grounds they had for different strategy choices and conclusions. This qualitative study suggested that beliefs about safety, expectation and motivation were important in the central decisions made during task solving.  But are reasoning and beliefs gendered? The third study explored upper secondary school teachers conceptions about gender and students mathematical reasoning. In this study I found that upper secondary school teachers attributed gender symbols including insecurity, use of standard methods and imitative reasoning to girls and symbols such as multiple strategies especially on the calculator, guessing and chance-taking were assigned to boys. In the fourth and final study I found that students, both male and female, shared their teachers view of rather traditional feminities and masculinities. Remarkably however, this result did not repeat itself when students were asked to reflect on their own behaviour: there were some discrepancies between the traits the students ascribed as gender different and the traits they ascribed to themselves. Taken together the thesis suggests that, contrary to conceptions, girls and boys share many of the same core beliefs about mathematics, but much work is still needed if we should create learning environments that provide better opportunities for students to develop beliefs that guide them towards well-grounded mathematical reasoning.