Transition to post-compulsory education : the case of algebra as a boundary object between school and college
This presentation/paper is part of a project investigating the transition from school to college (post-compulsory education) of students who have decided to continue with mathematics or mathematically demanding subjects. We take a Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) framework to analyse misalignments between school and college systems and how these manifest in conflict over discourses and practices. Here we would like to focus our attention on the distinct meanings that such systems give to algebra (as a “boundary object” between the two systems), because this area of mathematics has been identified as particularly problematic during this transition and because of its importance for access to advanced mathematics. Our data will come from observations of classrooms and interviews with students, teachers and authorities of two colleges and four of their “feeder” schools in the UK. Our first analyses point to differences in the value given to mathematics, and algebra in particular, in both institutions. We will discuss how these differences mediate students’ identification with the subject and the implications it has for the learning of algebra at college.