First Advisor

Karen Marrongelle

Term of Graduation

Summer 2005

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Mathematics Education






Rural schools -- Pacific Northwest, Mathematics teachers -- Pacific Northwest, Mathematics -- Study and teaching -- Pacific Northwest



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, xiii, 150 pages)


The purposes of this study were (1) to explore the relationship between mathematics education and the rural context and (2) to determine the usefulness of a social theory of learning (Wenger, 1998) to account for students' participation in advanced high school mathematics courses. Qualitative methods were used to gather data in a small, rural high school in the Pacific Northwest. Data gathered included a student survey, interviews with students and mathematics teachers, observations in mathematics classes, and documents related to the curriculum, the school, and the community.

The findings suggest that high school mathematics education is related to the rural context in two ways. First, the small size produces characteristics unique to rural high schools. Specifically, a small number of mathematics teachers has considerable ability to shape the curriculum, instruction, and students' views of mathematics. The mathematics course offerings reflect a college preparatory curriculum with few mathematics electives offered. Students' experiences are quite similar and their beliefs about the nature and usefulness of mathematics are fairly uniform. Second, mathematics education is related to the socioeconomic aspects of a rural community. Students' knowledge of mathematics that is used in adults' work and daily life comes from experiences with parents and community members. The usefulness of mathematics, and advanced high school mathematics specifically, may not be apparent for students living in communities without mathematics-intensive jobs. Rural high school students studying advanced mathematics are likely exceeding the formal mathematical education level of their parents.

The findings also indicated that Wenger's notions of identity and three modes of belonging provided a useful framework for understanding whether or not students participated in advanced mathematics classes. Students' participation in advanced math classes was related to their engagement in the day-to-day practice of mathematics education in the classroom, the place their engagement fit within the broader experiences of life in their imagination, and the alignment of their energies.


In Copyright. URI:

This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).


If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have it removed from the Open Access Collection, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL.

Persistent Identifier

Included in

Mathematics Commons