The Emergence of Ability



This chapter looks at the ways in which work, performance under pressure and right/ wrong answering were combined in classroom practice to define and recognise mathematical ability. The chapter uses the examples of three children to show how “bottom”, “middle” and “top” were constructed as subject positions in the learning of mathematics and how children were grouped according to these categories. The chapter uses teacher, parent and child talk to demonstrate how this system of classification was naturalised and seen as an expression of children’s innate and fixed mathematical qualities. Despite growing evidence that grouping for instruction by ability in mathematics is of dubious benefit, teachers were convinced that they could not effectively cater for students’ needs if they did not teach in this manner. The children were made as subjects in the discourse of ability as mathematically able or not.


Mathematical Learning Mathematical Achievement Extension Group Mathematical Ability Ability Group 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.James Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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