Susan Gerofsky

Associate Professor

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Sense-making in learning mathematics across languages and countries: cases of multilingual students in a weekend Japanese school (hoshuko) (2024)

Even if students move to a different country and successfully use a new language, it does not follow that they can learn and do mathematics in the same way as in their home country. These students can be living in the in-between space where linguistic and cultural differences might affect their approaches to learning mathematics. This qualitative nested-case study investigated the mathematics learning of 14 high school students studying mathematics simultaneously in English at a Canadian school and in Japanese at a Japanese school (hoshuko) within a Canadian city. Data collection included Zoom video-recorded initial individual interviews with participants, paired tasks in which participants crafted original mathematics word problems in both English and Japanese, and follow-up individual interviews. Data were analyzed using qualitative content analysis of students’ perspectives and experiences of learning mathematics and their attention to word problem structure, written form, mathematical structure, incorporation of personal experience in narratives, and language choice in shaping their word problems. Data from three focal pairs were then analyzed to provide a deeper understanding of their sense-making of word problems. To provide further insight into participants’ experience, word problems from several representative Canadian textbooks and a Japanese textbook were analyzed in terms of their structure, content, and relationship to local educational traditions and contexts.Findings indicate that while students learned mathematics comprehensively in both languages and contexts, they perceived Japanese and Canadian mathematics as possessing different features. Some students described learning mathematics in hoshuko as “deep,” and learning in Canadian schools as “wide”. These students reported that Japanese mathematics classrooms often explore concepts via an abstract problem-centered approach, while Canadian classrooms focus more on content applicable to real-world contexts. In moving between languages and cultures, students reported learning mathematics comprehensively by finding commonalities and connections based on mathematical words and concepts in both English and Japanese. Word problem tasks revealed that students’ sense-making manifested inconsistently across the languages (e.g., Japanese word problems often omitted the context). These findings offer support to educators in understanding the lived challenges of multilingual students and how they perceive and negotiate cultural and linguistic differences in mathematics education.

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Pedagogy of home-Inquiry: the Zen way (2022)

At school, what seems to be the core is the most forsaken and desolate. The blind spot of education is the neglect of the subjective world while confining its efforts merely to the objective world. Education lacks attention to discover one’s home-being that is the ultimate ground of human existence. We no longer remember where/who we truly are and dismiss the possibility of dwelling home in our daily living. Education is thereby driving students into a strange sense of displacement, uprooting and homeless-ness. And, in this forgetfulness, we become aliens to our own home.This, then is the existential inquiry of where our true home is. Relying on the way of Zen, a pedagogy of home-inquiry will explore the sense of home in relating to goals, methodology, place-time, name, form. Unlike tangible approaches that are mostly applied in the objective world, home-inquiry that is inner discovery of one’s subjective world. What difference would be seen in pedagogy of home-inquiry is the shift the way from goal-oriented to source-oriented practice; from approaching to allowing; from linear-time moving to here-now dwelling; from linguistic mastery to linguistic responding; from a human-centric to an eco-harmonious worldview. That is the “attending to the embodied and the subtle” (Bai et al., 2016, p. 77) through meditative, eco-poetic inquiry. Bringing back pedagogy to its truest meanings is to recover a sense of home where we can re-connect and re-locate.

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Weaving Indigenous mathematics: ways of sensing, being, and doing (2022)

This dissertation argues that an exploration of Indigenous mathematics, ways of sensing, being, and doing through culture-based practices of Maya Elders can engender greater awareness of meaningful mathematical heritages. I utilize the term weaving as a metaphor to reimagine mathematics as a colorful fabric of interlaced concepts. I use it as a means to explore specific mathematical knowing in and through certain strands of historical and cultural fibers. This thesis argues that mathematics far from being immaterial and disembodied – absolute, abstract, and eternal – is deeply material, human, and cultural. Using sensory ethnography (Pink, 2009), this research explores and analyzes Maya practices by paying close attention to sensory experiences, ways of experiencing, and ways of knowing and being. This sensory ethnographic study focuses on learning through the embodied, enacted ecological knowledge of the Maya that has been cultivated through generations in close contact with nature. This study uses contemporary practices to contextualize and explore Indigenous Maya mathematics.I document and interpret participants’ ways of knowing, reasoning, and sensory experiences through participant observations, un-coerced conversations, photography, participants’ collaborative work, and field notes. This research is about those experiences in relationship with six knowledgeable Elders who generously shared their knowledge with me, and of the land itself. At its heart, this dissertation explores mathematics as a creative, cultural, and human form of expression – a journey of discovery, and a spiritual world. It is about recognizing and valuing Indigenous knowledge in and through the act of doing as a means to challenge our sense of what we mean by mathematics.This study contributes to the field of math education and ethnomathematics, ways in which Indigenous sensing, being, and doing can enact an empowering and critical mathematics discourse. Implications and limitations of the study are also discussed, along with suggestions for future research and direction.

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Journeying with abeyance: a Welsh cultural approach to contemplative connection with the living world (2020)

As a response to climate change, this dissertation attends to a Welsh cultural approach to contemplative connection with the living world. In it, I write with auto-ethnography to explore my own cultural background, and relationship with trees and ancestral characters. Trees are vital to this journey with abeyance, a word I first heard when walking in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. Learning that abeyance originated in Wales where I am from, I retreat to this place and from there, connect with the larger patterns of life. Situated in an area of curriculum studies known as eco-poetic life writing, I contemplate the etymology of abeyance and its rootprints abey, abide, abashen, badinage, esbair, and baca. These words make room for encounters with ancestral voices of a ninth century lore-maker Hywel Dda; Gwerful Mechain, an erotic poet from the fifteenth century; a novelist and social entrepreneur, Amy Dillwyn; and my maternal grandmother Phyllis Gittins. Together with these rootprints, voices of my ancestral co-journeyers, and the diverse life-worlds of remote woodland, I have been learning to change the way I think and relate with trees. Realising it is not enough to deny the influence of complex cultural contexts: I invite readers to navigate their own ancestral journeys in relation to places and issues mattering to them. Environmental and contemplative educators may be interested in this way of knowing and connecting with trees and the living world, with culture, words, and ancestors. They may want to delve into their own memories of place and spiritual connections with extended poetic work. They may revisit places and relate with words and the spaces between words in creative, devotional, and regenerative ways equal to the challenge.

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Exploring Practice-Linked Identities Construction in Culturally Diverse Urban Youth Through an Intergenerational Garden-Based Learning Project (2016)

In the last two decades, there has been a growth in garden-based learning (GBL) practices at school grounds and in garden-based programs in North America. An interest in GBL has been propelled by concerns regarding the health of individuals and the health of the planet. Research conducted in this area has mainly focused on the short-term learning outcomes of GBL in areas such as nutrition education and science education. However, little is known about the long-term impact of GBL experiences in students’ lives and identities.The present qualitative case study explored student alumni and parents’ memories about participation in the Intergenerational Landed Learning on the Farm for the Environment Project (ILLP), a one-year intergenerational GBL program. The study focused on a longitudinal investigation of the practice-linked identities that culturally diverse, urban, elementary students constructed through participation in the ILLP, and inquiring into which elements of this GBL experience appear to play a role in supporting the construction of these identities.This study is rooted in several areas of theory including: current sociocultural discourses in science education literature on identity; garden-based learning literature; and the ‘new’ sociology of childhood. Data collection was carried out through focus group and individual interviews.The key finding of this study was the identification of six practice-linked identities related to children’s participation in the ILLP: 1) Identities constructed through relationships with non-parental adults: Farm Friends; 2) Identities constructed through relationships with more than-human-world: Interacting with other non-human animals and systems; 3) Identities constructed through new relationships with food and culture: Intercultural and intergenerational discoveries and frictions ; 4) Identities constructed around the ideas of freedom and agency: Taking risks, taking ownership, taking control; 5) Identities as learners: Expanding the sense of what learning is and where it takes place; and 6) Identities constructed through play: Imagination and pretend play in the forest. Particular aspects of the ILLP experience were identified as supporting the construction of these identities.This study helps to bridge the gaps between GBL theory and practice. Other implications and limitations of the study are discussed, along with suggestions for future research.

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Rehearsing a maroon mythopoetics in mathematics education through consideration of an artefact of mathematics population (the pedagogical film all is number) (2012)

In this transdisciplinary study I rehearse ideas of communication, discourse, identity, representation, ethics, and responsibility as they relate to mathematics education through critical engagement with the medium of a specific pedagogic film – All is Number – which was produced in the Caribbean and intended for Secondary School and non-specialist audiences. I argue that popularizations of science and mathematics, even as they work to interrupt particular limiting narratives, simultaneously participate in ideological, political moral and aesthetic economies and ecologies in which the discursive enactments of colonial power/knowledge are necessarily implicated and show that mathematics popularization has proselytizing and pedagogic functions. I consider the film All is Number to be situated with/in the heteroglossia of broader cultural phenomena, viz. the ‘popularization’ of educational consumption, and most specifically, the popularization of mathematics. Specifically, I illustrate how the film constructs an idea of mathematical authority and mathematics that is simultaneously sensitive to concerns in the mathematics education literature about the representation of mathematical practitioners and mathematics yet insensitive to practices of Othering.I argue that the film is an ethnomathematical artefact representing aspects of a particular culture of mathematics and that the mythopoetic tradition in Curriculum Studies might serve as a useful alloy for ethnomathematical studies. In addition, I contribute towards a language for Caribbean Curriculum Theorizing by arguing that the film and dissertation as anomalous places of learning can be construed as a maroon narrative. I introduce and rehearse the implications of my concept of intervulnerability where rehearsal is taken as being an ethically and epistemologically vigilant mode of dialogical inquiry, a demythologizing critique and recursive elaboration.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Experiences of Iranian high school immigrant students in learning mathematics in Canada (2022)

Studying in a new country with a new culture and language is a challenge for new immigrant students. The problems these students face may vary based on their country of origin. As an Iranian mathematics tutor in Vancouver, I realized that Iranian immigrant students were struggling with learning math in Canada, and I conducted this study to find out which factors affect their math learning process. Seven Iranian students aged between 14 to 17 years old who immigrated to Canada between one and five years ago were chosen to participate in this study. Fourteen interviews with participants were used for this qualitative study, using a Thematic Analysis (TA) method. Based on this method (TA), I transcribed and coded the student interviews, and then constructed themes via these codes. The results showed that these students have had different experiences in learning math in Canada with regard to language of instruction, teaching methods, use of technologies, classroom setting, and parental control. They utilized several strategies to deal with the problems arising from these differences, but despite these strategies, they still struggled with doing their math homework or studying for exams. Reduced parental control in Canada gave them autonomy to decide when and how to study for their tests or finish their homework, but most students did not know how to use this autonomy wisely. In the end, I believe it would be beneficial for these students to be advised and taught how to be autonomous in their education. I recommend that math teachers do more to help these students face and overcome their problems.

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Perspectives and practices of Asian Canadian teachers in decolonizing mathematics and music education (2020)

This thesis is a research study of the practices and perspectives of six Asian Canadian teachers as non-Indigenous settlers of colour in decolonizing education in the learning areas of mathematics and music. With a growing population of migrant communities, I raise the importance of understanding how people of colour construct their racial, national, cultural and settler identities as Canadians including their relationships with Indigenous peoples, lands, and knowledge systems. With the background of my own experience as an Asian New Zealander, I explore how Asian Canadian teachers have been practicing Indigenization and decolonization in their pedagogy. Drawing upon scholars in Indigenous, settler, and Asian Critical Studies, I investigate how participants’ constructs of identity affect their sense of responsibilities to participate in Indigenizing and decolonizing their teaching practice.Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with six Asian Canadian teachers—three mathematics teachers and three music teachers. The interviews explored participants’ life stories and experiences that contributed to their identity construction as Asian Canadians and their experiences in learning and teaching Indigenous knowledge and worldviews. The findings suggest that the participants face experiences of being perpetual foreigners/denizens which I theorize is a barrier to Asian teachers realising responsibilities to decolonize. I offer my suggestions for stakeholders in education – i.e., policymakers, administrations, and educators – in the form of various approaches to decolonize education that centre goals of Indigenous self-determination.

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Creating Active Mathematics Learning Opportunities for Students in China: An Action Research Project in One Chinese High School (2015)

In order to keep pace with the world, China has introduced eight different National Curriculum Reforms (NCR) in basic education since 1949. In the eighth NCR, long-term success of students became the most important and fundamental objective of the reform. More importantly, with respect to mathematics learning, the most recent reform refers not only the acquisition of knowledge, but also refers to the experience of problem solving, communication, and cooperation. Amongst the various factors that may have an impact on mathematics teaching and learning, active learning stands out as having the potential to fulfill students’ long-term development. In the eighth NCR, active learning means learning through doing, learning through experiencing, learning through practicing, and engagement (Li, 2008). However, transitioning from policy design to policy implementation is not easy. In mathematics education, teachers still have to face many challenges in improving their own teaching and advancing their own professional learning. Considering the context of China, the aim of this research is therefore to explore how high school mathematics teachers in China create active learning opportunities for their students with participation in an action research project. This action research study was conducted at Renhe High School and involved 3 volunteer Grade 10 mathematics teachers and their students (128 students in total). This thesis reports the strategies that teachers have tried during the study. According to three participating teachers’ experiences, the main strategies that teachers have tried include: introducing activity into class; small group cooperative learning; peer teaching; problem-based learning; and technology-enhanced learning. Consequently, by participating in the research, teachers’ experiences revealed various understandings of their own pedagogy, which were influenced or changed during the research. Further, the results of the study show that: (1) Introducing action research approaches could help teachers better understand and utilize “The Standards” to create active learning opportunities for students; (2) Collaboration among teachers enable teachers to examine their classroom instructions, revise current practices and develop new strategies; (3) A supportive school culture can help to overcome the pressure from NCEE (National Collage Entrance Examination), which often represents an overwhelming influence of classroom practice.

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The Nomadic Wanderings of a Bag-Lady and Her Space Chums: Re-Storying Environmental Education with Feral Figurations (2015)

This thesis is a semi-autobiographical narrative, a serious fiction, in which I hold together the contradictions I have inherited and gathered (specifically in relation to the Western educational system) and learn to encounter the “Other” (real and imaginary others), including the other that is my constantly shifting/growing “self,” and attempt to find/foster nourishing alliances for transforming Environmental Education. I situated myself with new materialist theorists, specifically Donna Haraway, Rosi Braidotti, and Karen Barad, who attempt to think “through the co-constitutive materiality of human corporeality and nonhuman natures” (Alaimo & Hekman, 2008, p. 9) and provide useful tools (figurations, metaphors, and/or stories) for finding creative theoretical alternatives to the reductionist, representationalist and dualistic practices of the Western (Euro-American) metaphysics. Instead, shifting towards ecological, rhizomatic thinking and a nomadic subjectivity, I take up bag-lady storytelling, a performative new materialist methodology, a creative (re)twist of Ursula Le Guin’s (1989) “Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction,” a nomadic practice of wandering and gathering. Such wandering and gathering requires a different logic, an attunement and attentiveness to processes and practices of ongoingness (not simply endings). Sharing the stories and figures I gathered doing and thinking a performative Environmental Educational inquiry during a yearlong place-based eco-art project collaboratively undertaken with a Grade 4/5/6 class around the lost streams of Vancouver, I focus on the patterns created and the traces left by the multiple complex figurative entities encountered who wander throughout spacetime. I focus on the types of stories created and told from these traces, searching for stories of our shared vital vulnerability, stories that just might draw us together, gathering and holding all of our heteronymous ideas, beliefs, and theories. My goal was to draw attention to ways of being, ways of knowing, and ways of living (getting on) together, that disrupt, alter, revitalize, and might just lead to the practices of collective recuperation needed to sustain a vibrant lively future.

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Exploring students' mathematical sense-making through non-routine problems; visualization, gesture, and affect (2013)

This study explores graduate students’ mathematical sense making through non-routine problems. I consider visualization, gesture and affect as integral cognitive aspects in the solution processes of participants. To analyze them, I introduce a suitable model, a think-aloud protocol coupled with meta-cognitive prompts. The study gives details of the solving of given non-routine problems by participants. It allows focusing on the relationship between visualization and gesture in conjunction with affective states in the process of sense making when solving non-routine problems in the absence of pre-determined mathematical procedures or algorithms. Visual imagery, gesture and particularly affective issues played a role in the solving processes of graduate students. As such these resources are seen as major ingredients in mathematics teaching and learning.

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Mathematics worksheets as a pedagogical genre in secondary school classrooms (2013)

From kindergarten to the end of secondary school, worksheets are common and dominant curriculum materials in mathematics education with profound effects on pedagogy. While worksheets play an important role in mathematics classrooms, there have been few attempts to describe and understand this pedagogical genre and its effects on the sociology of the classroom. This study examines what worksheets are and how they are used and perceived by teachers in mathematics education through the perspective of genre theory. It provides insights into how worksheets may impact the sociology of the classroom in terms of power and classroom dynamics and offers suggestions for implications through text analysis, focus groups and interviews. Given the important role worksheets play in mathematics education, the findings of this study may shed light into our understanding of the textual and contextual features of worksheets. This may, in turn, raise awareness among educators to revise their practice creating and using worksheets, and ultimately, improve mathematics education.

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A comparative study of mathematics educational research in China and English-speaking countries as represented in journals (2012)

This is a comparative study of four academic journals in mathematics education: one key journal from China, Journal of Mathematics Education (JME), and the other three English-language international journals Educational Studies in Mathematics (ESM), Journal for Research in Mathematics Education (JRME) and For the Learning of Mathematics (FLM). The researcher compared a sample consisting of three consecutive issues of the four journals over a time period within the year 2009. All articles were read in their original language of publication (Chinese or English). Additionally, members of the editorial boards of the journals were interviewed.This study consists of three parts:1) Content analysis (Krippendorff, 1980; Stemler, 2001) of the articles from the sample.2)Qualitative analysis of interviews (Kavle, 1996; McNamara, 1999) with members of the editorial boards of the four journals.3)Textual analysis (Mckee, 2003; Truex, 1996) of the four journalsThese three parts were considered together to build an ‘intellectual map’ (Jobert, 1996) for cross-cultural comparison. Using these three perspectives, the researcher was able to offer a more comprehensive view of the cultural and individual differences than a single perspective would give.The purposes of this study were:To help Chinese mathematics education researchers understand the requirements and expectations of English-language international journals so that they can begin to publish in these journals more widely. To encourage Chinese and Western researchers to read about one another’s research and promote the exchange of ideas.Results indicate that authors for Chinese journal come from more varied professional backgrounds than those writing for the English-language journals. Many articles in Chinese journal do not use any clearly-stated research methodology, in contrast to most articles in the Western journals. No significant differences are found in the topics in published articles. However, the three English-language journals are different from one other in terms of author characteristics, topic types and methodologies. All of these differences relate to the different cultural backgrounds in which the journals were embedded. The conclusions include discussions about academic cultural differences and implications for future studies. This study provides a new dimension in cross-cultural comparative investigation.

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Soft Physics: Healing the Mind/Body Split in Physics Education (2012)

Physics education is facing a crisis of meaning: students can “plug” numbers into formulas, but research shows they do not give much meaning to physical concepts. This thesis explores how the cultural context of physics education, in particular the mind/body cartesian split, contributes to a loss of meaning. Drawing from sensory scholarship, cognitive linguistics, feminist critiques of science, her own teaching experience and education research on student misconceptions and intuitive knowledge, the author challenges the mind/body dichotomy by exploring how the body can make sense of the physical world through the senses. Physical concepts can be more-than-representational, exist beyond mathematical symbols and signifiers, but nevertheless be perceived through touch. In her quest for a mind/body truce, the author has created provocative stories for the physics classroom that welcome the body and its physic-al knowledge, and that reconcile intuition and Newtonian physics. This subtle change of perspective leads her to replace the alleged mind/body war with a respectful quest for compromise and fine tuning, and to analyze the dominant patriarchal narratives of the physics community. The author advocates for an intuition-based, sensory, student-centred pedagogy that redefines traditional power relationships in the physics classroom and challenges indoctrinating scientific discourses, hoping it will contribute to improving the inclusiveness of the physics community. Such a paradigm shift requires a re-storying of collective narratives. Physics is not about dominating nature but about learning from nature; it is time to abandon the myth of the detached observer and study nature from inside, at the confluence of everything that make us humans.

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Peace, love, and pi: Imagining a world where Paris Hilton loves mathematics (2010)

This thesis is a conceptual piece that explores how incorporating marketing theory and notions of cool into the realm of mathematics education may help to prevent qualified female students from self-selecting out of mathematics. It begins by exploring current perspectives on the problem of female attrition in educational and career trajectories involving math. Focusing on girls from Toronto, Ontario, who generally see themselves as part of the mainstream culture, this thesis speculates as to how these girls understand mathematics and their relationship to mathematics. The central purpose of this research is to understand whether these girls choose not to pursue math beyond the compulsory level because they are selecting courses to construct their identity on the basis of cool, using the same evaluation process they would when selecting products for consumption. Drawing extensively on literature, this thesis presents a novel perspective with which to view female disinterest in mathematics. This conceptual framework is then illuminated with participants’ data obtained through qualitative methodology to provide an experiential account of the conceptual. Grounding the empirical data atop the conceptual brings to life the interconnection of perspectives of scholars such as Walkerdine, Mendick, Demetriou, and Gladwell, illustrating how femininity, consumerism, and mathematics comprise our socially constructed reality. This thesis argues that treating math as a consumer good by marketing it accordingly might give rise to increased mathematical participation and enthusiasm by this particular segment of girls who rely on identity marketing for many of their consumption decisions. Finally, this argument is illuminated by a sample marketing plan that provides a practical example of how the ideas emergent from this study might applied. In conclusion, this thesis addresses the limitations and controversies that arise from the use of marketing as a means to promote education, the challenges of unfixing and subverting femininity, and the macro level possibilities that are opened up with the help of a micro level nudge in a different direction.

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