Mathematics in context: an ethnographic study with middle school students working as street-marketers, barbers, and bakers

Geçen, Bilgehan
This ethnographic case study was conducted to analyze workplace mathematics of middle school students whom working as street-marketers, barbers and bakers after school time. Throughout this study, the phrase of “working students” is used as “the students who participate in a job activity to earn money without insurance”. The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of middle school level street-marketers’, bakers’ and barbers' workplace mathematics and to compare school mathematics performance and contextualized workplace mathematics performance of middle school level street-marketers, bakers and barbers in Ankara, Turkey. To achieve these goals, the researcher has worked with eight middle school male students (four street-marketers, two bakers, and two barbers). All participants had been the students of the researcher for three years. Legitimate Peripheral Apprenticeship of Lave and Wenger and “Socio-cultural Learning Theory” of Vygotsky are accepted as theoretical framework. The structure of their overall work-related practices and how those children engage in mathematical activities in their all work-related context are analyzed with observation. The views of the participants about interaction of the formal school-taught mathematics with their workplace mathematics and what extend the real life problems in the mathematics textbooks refer to the real lives of the participants, the responses of the participants to each other’s workplace mathematics, the difference between achievements of the similar tests which include different workplaces problems, textbook problems and non-contextualized mathematical questions of the participants are analyzed with semi-structured interviews, observation check-lists, open-ended real life problem tests and field notes. All of the participants were voluntarily participated in the study and written permissions from their families were obtained prior to the study. The results revealed that the participants faced with lots of mathematical practices in in their workplaces. The students had better scores at the tests included the real life problems related with workplaces. According to participants, mathematics is used in street-markets mostly. The participants think that school-taught mathematics is generally used in the workplaces; on the other hand, workplace mathematics is rarely used in the schools. They also think that there are few real life problems that really refer to their real lives in the textbooks.


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Citation Formats
B. Geçen, “Mathematics in context: an ethnographic study with middle school students working as street-marketers, barbers, and bakers,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2016.