Mathematics education is seen as a right for all children, and important to ensure a prosperous future. However, in Australia and other nations, rural students and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds both perform less well in mathematics and are less likely to pursue advanced mathematics. This paper presents a case study of a low socioeconomic status, rural government school that has high engagement and achievement in senior mathematics, despite its setting. The study uses a conceptual framework informed by Appreciative Inquiry and the theory of Practice Architectures to explore the activities and facilitatory elements that have likely contributed to the school’s mathematics success. Rather than being attributed to one or two key programmes, the school’s mathematics success seemed associated with a collection of whole-school factors. Setting high expectations while providing proactive learning support, differentiating instruction, emphasising the value of mathematics, linking mathematics to careers, and building mathematics teacher capacity were all associated with the school’s higher than expected mathematics performance. Rather than hindering the school’s mathematics programme, its small size and rural context were used to enable practices that contributed to mathematics success.
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The author would like to acknowledge the support of the Victorian Department of Education and Training, along with his supervisors, A/Prof Lena Danaia and A/Prof Amy MacDonald, in completing this research.
This research was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship.
Conflict of interest
Analysis used NVivo and thematic codes identified in the paper.
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Murphy, S. Mathematics success against the odds: the case of a low socioeconomic status, rural Australian school with sustained high mathematics performance. Math Ed Res J (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13394-020-00361-8
- Mathematics education
- Rural education
- Socioeconomic disadvantage
- Strengths approach
- Secondary school