What do you Meme? An Investigation of Social Media and Mathematical Identity
Keywords:internet memes, Popular culture, Math Identity, Sociotechnological, Critical Mathematics
Mathematical spaces extend far beyond the classroom and physical environments into sociotechnological spaces. Today’s students have more to consider than just their face-to-face experiences with mathematics inside or outside the classroom; they have the online perspectives of others to consider as well. To gain critical insight, research was conducted with semi-structured focus groups using an interactive mathematics internet meme activity. Using positioning theory, this article highlights students’ stances and three storylines as conceptual tools for better understanding their offline and online mathematical identities. Results show the two spaces are not mutually exclusive and students are succumbing and adhering to a larger hegemonic construction of mathematics found in the online communities with various points of tension found.
Anderson, R. (2007). Being a mathematics learner: Four faces of identity. Mathematics Educator, 17(1), 7–14.
Appelbaum, P. M. (1995). Popular culture, educational discourse, and mathematics. State University of New York Press.
Baym, N. K., & Burnett, R. (2009). Amateur experts: International fan labour in Swedish independent music. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 12(5), 433–449.
Benoit, G. (2018). Mathematics in popular culture: An analysis of mathematical internet memes. Teachers College, Columbia University.
Berry, R. Q., III. (2008). Access to upper-level mathematics: The stories of African American middle school boys who are successful with school mathematics. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 39, 464–488.
Bishop, J. P. (2012). “She’s always been the smart one. I’ve always been the dumb one”: Identities in the mathematics classroom. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 43(1), 34–74. doi:10.5951/jresematheduc.43.1.0034
Black, L., Solomon, Y., & Radovic, D. (2015). Mathematics as caring: The role of ‘others’ in a mathematical identity. Publisher.CERME 9 - Ninth Congress of the European Society for Research in Mathematics Education, Feb 2015,
Prague, Czech Republic. pp.1564-1570, Proceedings of the Ninth Congress of the European Society for Research in Mathematics Education.
Boaler, J. (2000). Mathematics from another world: Traditional communities and the alienation of learners. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 18, 379–397.
Boaler, J., & Greeno, J. G. (2000). Identity, agency, and knowing in mathematics worlds. In J. Boaler (Ed.), Multiple perspectives on mathematics teaching and learning (pp. 171–200). Ablex.
Boyd, D. (2008). Why youth <3 social network sites: The role of networked publics in teenage social life. In D.
Buckingham (Ed.), Youth, identity, and digital media (pp. 119–142). MIT Press.
Buckingham, D. (2008). Introducing identity. MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Initiative.
Chen, A., Lu, Y., Chau, P. Y., & Gupta, S. (2014). Classifying, measuring, and predicting users’ overall active behavior on social networking sites. Journal of Management Information Systems, 31(3), 213–253.
Chronaki, A. (2011). ‘Troubling’ essentialist identities: Performative mathematics and the politics of possibility. In M.
Kontopodis, D. Wulf, & B. Fichtner (Eds.), Children, development and education (Vol. 3, pp. 207–226). Springer. doi:10.1007/978-94-007
Creswell, J. W. (2012). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. SAGE.
Darragh, L. (2018). Loving and loathing: Portrayals of school mathematics in young adult fiction. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 49(2), 178–209.
Davies, B., & Harré, R. (2001). Positioning: The discursive production of selves. In M. Wetherell, S. Taylor, & S. Yates (Eds.), Discourse theory and practices (pp. 261–271). SAGE.
Emojipedia. (n.d.). Home of Emoji Meanings. Retrieved January 30, 2020, from https://emojipedia.org/neutral-face/
Epstein, D., Mendick, H., & Moreau, M.-P. (2010). Imagining the mathematician: Young people
talking about popular representations of math. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 31(1), 45–60.
Ernest, P. (2008) Epistemology Plus Values Equals Classroom Image of Mathematics. Philosophy of Mathematics Education Journal, 23, pp. 1–12.
Esmonde, I. (2009). Ideas and identities: Supporting equity in cooperative mathematics learning. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 1008–1043.
Fishwick, M. (2002). Popular culture in a new age. Routledge.
Fiske, J. (2017). Reading the popular. Routledge.
Foucault, M. (1989). The archaeology of knowledge. Routledge.
Gee, J. P. (2001). Identity as an analytic lens for research in education. Review of Research in Education, 99–125.
Gutiérrez, R. (2000). Is the multiculturalization of mathematics doing us more harm than good. Multicultural Curriculum: New Directions for Social Theory, Practice, and Policy, 199–219.
Gutiérrez, R. (2013). The sociopolitical turn in mathematics education. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 44(1), 37–68.
Harré, R., & Van Langenhove, L. (Eds.). (1998). Positioning theory: Moral contexts of international action. Wiley-Blackwell.
Harré, R., Moghaddam, F. M., Cairnie, T. P., Rothbart, D., & Sabat, S. R. (2009). Recent advances in positioning theory. Theory & Psychology, 19(1), 5–31.
Herbel-Eisenmann, B. A., Wagner, D., Johnson, K. R., Suh, H., & Figueras, H. (2015). Positioning in mathematics education: Revelations on an imported theory. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 89(2), 185–204.
Hodge, L. L., & Cobb, P. (2019). Two views of culture and their implications for mathematics teaching and learning. Urban Education, 54(6), 860–884. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042085916641173
Hrynyshyn, D. (2017). The limits of the digital revolution: How mass media culture endures in a social media world. ABC-CLIO.
Jackson, K. (2009). The social construction of youth and mathematics: The case of a fifth-grade classroom. In D. B. Martin (Ed.), Mathematics teaching, learning, and liberation in the lives of Black children (pp. 175–199). Routledge.
Jenkins, H. (2009). If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead (part one): Media viruses and memes. http://henryjenkins.org/2009/02/if_it_doesnt_spread_its_dead_p.html
Johnson, D. (2007). Mapping the meme: A geographical approach to materialist rhetorical criticism. Communication & Critical/Cultural Studies, 4(1), 27–50. doi:10.1080/14791420601138286
Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (2007). Online memes, affinities, and cultural production. In M. Knobel & C. Lankshear (Eds.), A new literacies sampler (pp. 199–228). Peter Lang.
Lerman, S. (2000). The social turn in mathematics education research. Multiple Perspectives on Mathematics Teaching and Learning, 19–44.
Lindlof, T. R., & Taylor, B. C. (2002). Asking, listening, and telling. Qualitative Communication Research Methods, 2, 170–208.
Marshall, E., & Sensoy, O. (2011). Rethinking popular culture and media. Rethinking Schools.
Martin, D. B. (2012). Learning mathematics while Black. Educational Foundations, 26, 47–66.
Mendick, H., Epstein, D., & Moreau, M.-P. (2008). Mathematical images and identities: Entertainment, education, social justice. Research in Mathematics Education, 10(1), 101–102. doi:10.1080/14794800801916978
Mendick, H., Moreau, M.-P., & Hollingworth, S. (2008). Mathematical images and gender identities: A report on the gendering of representations of mathematics and mathematicians in popular culture and their influences on learners. UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology. http://research.gold.ac.uk/4045/
Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. SAGE.
Milner, R. M. (2012). The world made meme: Discourse and identity in participatory media [Unpublished dissertation], University of Kansas, Lawrence.
Moreau, M. P., Mendick, H., & Epstein, D. (2010). Constructions of mathematicians in popular culture and learners’ narratives: A study of mathematical and non‐mathematical subjectivities. Cambridge Journal of Education, 40(1), 25–38.
Muntinga, D. G., Moorman, M., & Smit, E. G. (2011). Introducing COBRAs: Exploring motivations for brand-related social media use. International Journal of Advertising, 30(1), 13–46.
Nasir, N. (2002). Identity, goals, and learning: Mathematics in cultural practice. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 4(2&3), 213–247. doi:10.1207/S15327833MTL04023_6
Nasir, N., & Cooks, J. (2009). Becoming a hurdler: How learning settings afford identities. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 40(1), 41–61.
Nasir, N., & McKinney de Royston, M. (2013). Power, identity, and mathematical practices outside and inside school. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 44(1), 264–287. doi:10.5951/jresematheduc.44.1.0264
O'Keeffe, G. S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families. Pediatrics, 127(4), 800–804.
O'Reilly, T. (2007). What is Web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Communications & Strategies, No. 1, p. 17, First Quarter, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1008839
Picker, S. H., & Berry, J. S. (2000). Investigating pupils’ images of mathematicians. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 43(1), 65–94. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1017523230758
Radovanovic, D., & Ragnedda, M. (2012). Small talk in the digital age: Making sense of Phatic Posts. MSM2012 Workshop Proceedings, CEUR 838: 10–13.
Ritchie, S. M. (2002). Student positioning within groups during science activities. Research in Science Education, 32(1), 35–54.
Salopek, G. (2018). Mathematics in popular culture: An investigation through videos. Teachers College, Columbia University.
Schifman L (2013). Memes in a digital world: Reconciling with a conceptual troublemaker. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication 18(3), 362–377.
Sherin, M. G., Jacobs, V., & Philipp, R. (2011). Situating the study of teacher noticing. In M. G. Sherin, V. R. Jacobs, & R. A. Philipp (Eds.), Mathematics teacher noticing: Seeing through teachers’ eyes (pp. 3–14). London: Routledge.
Solomon, Y., Lawson, D., & Croft, T. (2011). Dealing with ‘fragile identities’: Resistance and refiguring in women mathematics students. Gender and Education, 1–19. doi:10.1080/09540253.2010.512270
Stephan, M. L., Chval, K. B., Wanko, J. J., Civil, M., Fish, M. C., Herbel-Eisenmann, B., & Wilkerson, T. L. (2015). Grand challenges and opportunities in mathematics education research. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 46(2), 134–146. doi:10.5951/jresematheduc.46.2.0134
Stinson, D. (2013). Negotiating the “White male math myth”: African American male students and success in school mathematics. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 44(1), 69-99. doi:10.5951/jresematheduc.44.1.0069
Suh, H., Musselman, A. T., Herbel-Eisenmann, B., & Steele, M. D. (2013). Teacher positioning and agency to act: Talking about “low-level” students. North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education.
Varelas, M., Martin, D. B., & Kane, J. M. (2012). Content learning and identity construction: A framework to strengthen African American students’ mathematics and science learning in urban elementary schools. Human Development, 55(5–6), 319–339.
Walker, E. N. (2012). Cultivating mathematics identities in and out of school and in between. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 5(1), 66–83.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning as a social system. Systems Thinker, 9(5), 2–3.
Wiggins, B. E. (2019). The discursive power of memes in digital culture: Ideology, semiotics, and intertextuality. Routledge.
Wood, M. (2013). Mathematical micro-identities: Moment-to-moment positioning and learning in a fourth-grade classroom. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 44(5), 775-808. doi:10.5951/jresematheduc.44.5.0775
Yus, F. (2018). Identity-related issues in meme communication. Internet Pragmatics, 1, 113–133.
Copyright (c) 2023 Gregory Benoit, Gabor Salopek
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
The copyright for articles in JUME is held by the individual. By virtue of their appearance in this open access journal, articles are free to use with proper attribution in educational and other non-commercial settings.