Numbers and nerds: exploring portrayals of mathematics and mathematicians in children’s media

Jennifer Hall, Christine Suurtamm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Media play an important role in young people’s lives as an agent of socialization, both generally and with regard to mathematics. To understand the mathematics-related messages disseminated to young people via popular media, we analyzed portrayals of mathematics and mathematicians in over 40 media examples (television shows, movies, websites, video games, and books). Notably, the selection of media was based on elementary students’ responses to a questionnaire about their media favourites, thus enabling an analysis of the messages to which students are exposed during typical media use. While there were differences in the portrayals across the media types, the messages disseminated consistently related to the invisibility of mathematics, narrow views of mathematics, and stereotypical portrayals of mathematicians. Such messages are problematic as they can influence young people’s views of mathematics and mathematicians, as well as of themselves as mathematics learners.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberem0591
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Electronic Journal of Mathematics Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • popular media
  • elementary students' views

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