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Re-thinking science capital: the role of ‘capital’ and ‘identity’ in mediating students’ engagement with mathematically demanding programmes at university

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journal contribution
posted on 27.06.2016, 09:16 by Laura Black, Paul Hernandez-Martinez
A wide body of literature has highlighted how high achievement in mathematics in secondary school does not necessarily motivate students to both choose and succeed on mathematically demanding programmes at post compulsory level. The recent Enterprising Science project (Archer et al, 2015) and before that, the ASPIRES project (Archer et al, 2013), have both highlighted that access to science capital is perhaps more important than prior achievement in shaping students’ aspirations and their future trajectories in STEM. In this paper, we critically analyse the notion of science capital and its role in mediating students’ choice of and experience of studying mathematically demanding degree programmes at university. Drawing on data from the TransMaths project, we present two cases – Stacey and Elton – who are both enrolled on the same ‘Mathematics for Physics’ course at university. We show that although both discuss access to science capital in narrating their choice of degree, they do so in different ways and this invariably interplays with different forms of identification with ‘Mathematics for Physics’. We conclude that there is a need to re-conceptualise science capital so that the dialectic relationship between its exchange and use value is theorized more fully. Whilst some students may access science capital as a means to accumulate capital (e.g. qualifications) for its own sake (exchange value), others appear to recognize the ‘use value’ of science learning and knowledge and this produces different forms of engagement with science (and mathematics). We therefore, argue that authoring oneself in the name of a STEM identity is crucial in mediating how one perceives science capital. Finally, we argue that mathematics should be a central part of this framework since it significantly contributes to the exchange value of science as a form of capital (especially Physics) but it also offers use value in scientific labour (e.g. in modelling scientific problems).
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Funding

The TranMaths Project was funded by the ESRC (RES-062-23-1213

History

School

  • Science

Department

  • Mathematics Education Centre

Published in

Teaching Mathematics and Its Applications

Citation

BLACK, L. and HERNANDEZ-MARTINEZ, P., 2016. Re-thinking science capital: the role of ‘capital’ and ‘identity’ in mediating students’ engagement with mathematically demanding programmes at university. Teaching Mathematics and its Applications, 35 (3), pp. 131-143.

Publisher

© Oxford University Press (OUP)

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Acceptance date

12/06/2016

Publication date

2016-07-09

Notes

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Teaching Mathematics and its Applications following peer review. The version of record BLACK, L. and HERNANDEZ-MARTINEZ, P., 2016. Re-thinking science capital: the role of ‘capital’ and ‘identity’ in mediating students’ engagement with mathematically demanding programmes at university. Teaching Mathematics and its Applications, 35 (3), pp. 131-143 is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/teamat/hrw016.

ISSN

1471-6976

Language

en

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