Paper 3: The mathematical formatting of how climate change is perceived: Teachers’ reflection and practice

Book Chapter

Steffensen, L., Herheim, R., & Rangnes, T. E. (accepted). The mathematical formatting of how climate change is perceived: teachers’ reflection and practice. In A. Andersson & R. Barwell (Eds.), Applying critical perspectives in mathematics education: Sense

This chapter concerns how three teachers in lower secondary school include climate change in school mathematics. Data was collected over a one-year period, where the teachers organized several teaching activities such as fieldwork, posters, contribution to an exhibition, and dialogue and debates, to facilitate students’ critical mathematic competences through working with climate change. In addition, they had seven research partnership meetings where they discussed the teaching activities as well as reflected on different aspects of teaching climate change and mathematics.

In this chapter we apply a teacher perspective, and we focus in particular on the role mathematics can play in order to format the understanding of climate change. The data was transcribed, coded, and categorised, and in the analysis, the focus is on the teachers’ group-discussions, their facilitation of teaching activities, and on how these activities influenced the students. A formatting power of mathematics are identified at three levels: 1) in teachers’ meta-reflections, 2) when the teachers’ use mathematics to format students’ understanding, and 3) when teachers facilitate students’ awareness of the formatting power of mathematics.

In the teachers’ group discussion, they meta-reflected (1) on e.g. how global temperature is measured, and the different choices involved in such measurements. For instance, deciding whether to choose ground or atmospheric measurements could from the teachers’ perspective shape how reality is perceived. Furthermore, when the teachers facilitated the students’ critical mathematics competence, they used (2) mathematics to format students’ understanding of climate change, e.g. when the teachers made a quiz, and used particular numbers and graphs to highlight different topics and perspectives regarding climate change. The teachers also emphasised (3) on their students’ awareness of the formatting power of mathematics. They encouraged the students to reflect on how mathematics can be used to argue for different perspectives regarding e.g. climate change and incentives on electric vehicles by politicians and journalists. The findings suggest that a complex issue such as climate change brings forth an awareness of the formatting powers of mathematics.