Flexible Mathematical Understanding in an Ironworking Apprenticeship Classroom

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Lyndon Martin
Lionel LaCroix
Lynda Fownes


The relationship between learning and context has long been an issue of interest and concern in the field of adult mathematics education. In particular, the questions of whether and how learning can be transferred from one context to another, remains a focus of researchers (Lave 1988, Lerman 1999, Evans 2000, Carraher and Scheliemann 2002). In this paper we look at the mathematical understanding of a group of apprentice ironworkers working on a construction task, and explore the flexible nature of their understanding. We consider the ways in which they are able to use quite formal mathematical ideas and operations and make sense of these within the specific context of their trade. Then we discuss how this process is more than one of simple transfer.

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Author Biographies

Lyndon Martin, University of East Anglia and University of British Columbia

Lyndon Martin is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at the University of East Anglia and an Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia. His research interests are the nature of mathematical understanding, with a particular focus on workplace learning and collective understanding.

Lionel LaCroix, Brock University

Lionel LaCroix is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Brock University. His research interests include: mathematics practice and learning both in school and the workplace, instructional design, and activity theory.

Lynda Fownes, BC Construction Industry Skills Improvement Council

Lynda Fownes is the Executive Director of BC Construction Industry Skills Improvement Council. Her experience includes project design, data collection, test item writing and applying the results of research.