A study of the constitution of Grade 8 mathematics within the context of the Revised National Curriculum Statement in five Western Cape schools

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This dissertation is an investigation into the constitution of school mathematics within the context of the Revised National Curriculum Statement in a selection of Grade 8 mathematics lessons in five working-class schools in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The study is located within the broad framework of the sociology of education, specifically drawing on Bernstein's (1996) sociological theory of education and his pedagogic device. This study focuses on the way in which the content of the evaluative rule of the pedagogic device is realised in the particular selection of schools. My theoretical framework relies on of the work of Davis (2010a, 2010b, 2010c, 2011a, 2011b, 2011c, 2012, 2013a & 2013b) and Bernstein (ibid.). These theoretical resources were drawn on to describe and analyse the mathematical activity in the five schools as well as serving as a means for generating analytical resources for describing the constitution of mathematics. In my analysis I present an account of the computational activity of teachers and their learners and the regulation of mathematical activity in fifteen Grade 8 mathematics lessons. I use these descriptions of computational activity to discuss the realisation of content against a general background of curriculum reform that has de-emphasised explicit use of formal definitions. I explore what mathematical content was recognised and constituted in relation to topics announced by teachers and use the mathematics encyclopaedia as a resource to ascertain the content that substitutes for formal mathematical definitions, axioms and propositions.