Representations of mathematics in children’s media

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


This poster session reports on a portion of a multifaceted research project that investigated elementary students’ views of and experiences with mathematics and mathematicians, and the ways that students’ views may be impacted by parents’ views, teachers’ views, and popular media representations of mathematics and mathematicians. The overarching goal of this project is to understand how outside sources can influence children’s views. Prior research (e.g., Ma, 1999) has shown that negative attitudes toward mathematics are linked to decreased achievement and participation, but it is unclear what factors impact children’s attitudes toward mathematics. This study is framed with a feminist and social constructivist stance. As such, I conceive of views of mathematics, as well as mathematics as a discipline, as socially constructed and gendered. The conceptual framework for this study involves producers and active consumers. In an interaction, messages are disseminated by a producer (e.g., media) and received by a consumer (e.g., child). Each received message is actively evaluated by the consumer, who either alters the existing schema to include the new idea or discards it (Huntemann & Morgan, 2001). The larger research project involved questionnaires, drawings of mathematicians, and focus group interviews with Grade 4 and 8 students from Ontario; interviews with teachers and parents; and an analysis of children’s media. For the purposes of this poster session, I report on the media analysis. Media play a key socializing role in children's lives (Roberts & Foehr, 2004), so exposure to media messages about mathematics may impact students’ views of mathematics. To guide the media selection, a list of the ‘top’ children’s media was compiled from students’ responses to an online questionnaire in which 156 Grade 4 and 8 students took part. For each of five media types (television shows, movies, websites, video games, and books), participants listed their three top choices. From these data, a ‘top choices’ list was compiled, which was comprised of 10 television shows, three movies (or series), seven websites, six video games, and five books (or series). To narrow the viewing, summaries of each individual title (e.g., an episode of a television show) were read online; if there was any indication of mathematical content, the title was selected for analysis. Detailed notes were taken for each title viewed, and these notes were analyzed for mathematical content. Mathematics-related instances were summarized and themes were established for each series, for each media type, and across all media types. Wide variations of mathematical content and messages were found to exist across media types, although stereotypes and mathematical errors were commonly featured. A full discussion of the findings will be presented in this poster session, with the findings positioned with respect to their potential impact on children’s views of mathematics and mathematicians.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes
EventAnnual Conference of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education 2013 - Chicago, United States of America
Duration: 14 Nov 201317 Nov 2013
Conference number: 35th


ConferenceAnnual Conference of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education 2013
Abbreviated titlePME-NA 2013
CountryUnited States of America
Internet address

Cite this

Hall, J. (2013). Representations of mathematics in children’s media. 558. Abstract from Annual Conference of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education 2013, Chicago, United States of America.