Is mathematics T.I.R.E.D? A profile of quiet disaffection in the secondary mathematics classroom

Elena Nardi, Susan Steward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)


Research often focuses on disaffection in the mathematics classroom as evident in disruptive behaviour, absenteeism or special needs: thus, it ignores a group of students whose disaffection is expressed in a tacit, non-disruptive manner, namely as disengagement and invisibility. Ignoring this often large group implies that the mathematical potential of these learners may remain defunct. This article reports on a one-year study of quiet disaffection conducted in three Year 9 mathematics classrooms in Norfolk. Through extensive observation and interviewing of seventy 13/14 year-old pupils, a profile of quiet disaffection from secondary school mathematics was constructed. It is proposed that its characteristics include: Tedium, Isolation, Rote learning (rule-and-cue following), Elitism and Depersonalisation. The proposed characteristics are described and exemplified. Finally, the themes that emerged from the students' statements about their images of effective mathematics teaching (Nature of Classroom Activities - the notion of 'Fun', Teaching Styles; Role of the Teacher; Role of Stratification Structures such as Setting) are outlined.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-366
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2003

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