Abstract / Synopsis

In this paper we report our findings of college students’ images of mathematicians and we reflect on different methodologies used to assess this information. The study reported in this paper was conducted in two stages. During the first stage, we asked 179 college students to “draw a mathematician” and also asked them to list five characteristics and five careers for a mathematician. In the second stage of the study, we conducted four focus group interviews with a total of twelve college students. During the focus group interviews, we showed the students 16 photos of real people and asked them to determine which they think are mathematicians and which are not. We found that college students do hold certain stereotypic images of mathematicians and that different perspectives arose based on the different research methodologies. In this paper, we argue for the need to go beyond relying solely on the “draw a mathematician” test and we conclude with a discussion on the implications that stereotypic images of mathematicians have on the mathematical workforce.



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