UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Peace, love, and pi : imagining a world where Paris Hilton loves mathematics Vakharia, Vanessa


This thesis is a conceptual piece that explores how incorporating marketing theory and notions of cool into the realm of mathematics education may help to prevent qualified female students from self-selecting out of mathematics. It begins by exploring current perspectives on the problem of female attrition in educational and career trajectories involving math. Focusing on girls from Toronto, Ontario, who generally see themselves as part of the mainstream culture, this thesis speculates as to how these girls understand mathematics and their relationship to mathematics. The central purpose of this research is to understand whether these girls choose not to pursue math beyond the compulsory level because they are selecting courses to construct their identity on the basis of cool, using the same evaluation process they would when selecting products for consumption. Drawing extensively on literature, this thesis presents a novel perspective with which to view female disinterest in mathematics. This conceptual framework is then illuminated with participants’ data obtained through qualitative methodology to provide an experiential account of the conceptual. Grounding the empirical data atop the conceptual brings to life the interconnection of perspectives of scholars such as Walkerdine, Mendick, Demetriou, and Gladwell, illustrating how femininity, consumerism, and mathematics comprise our socially constructed reality. This thesis argues that treating math as a consumer good by marketing it accordingly might give rise to increased mathematical participation and enthusiasm by this particular segment of girls who rely on identity marketing for many of their consumption decisions. Finally, this argument is illuminated by a sample marketing plan that provides a practical example of how the ideas emergent from this study might applied. In conclusion, this thesis addresses the limitations and controversies that arise from the use of marketing as a means to promote education, the challenges of unfixing and subverting femininity, and the macro level possibilities that are opened up with the help of a micro level nudge in a different direction.

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