Practice and conceptions

Communicating mathematics in the workplace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

The study examined the experience of communication in the workplace for mathematics graduates with a view to enriching university curriculum. I broaden the work of Burton and Morgan (2000), who investigated the discourse practices of academic mathematicians to examine the discourse used by new mathematics graduates in industry and their perceptions of how they acquired these skills. I describe the different levels of perception of discourse needs and of how they gained the necessary skills. At the lowest level, they learnt through trying out different approaches. At the next level, they were assisted by colleagues or outside situations. At the highest level, a small group viewed communication and interpersonal skills as a scientific process and stood back and used their "mathematical" observation skills to model their behaviour. These graduates did not appear to have systematically studied communication as part of their degree and they were unaware of the power of language choices in the workplace. Those who were working as mathematicians had to come to grips with explaining mathematical concepts to a wide range of people with varying mathematical skills but who generally were considerably less skilled in mathematics. The study revealed that these graduates were seriously underprepared in many aspects for joining the workforce. Many found it difficult to adapt to dealing with colleagues and managers, and developing communication skills was often a matter of trial and error.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-125
Number of pages17
JournalEducational Studies in Mathematics
Volume79
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012

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Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2011. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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