Andrew Fiss

Nov 9, 2022

Performing Math

A History of Communication and Anxiety in the American Mathematics Classroom

Rutgers University Press 2020

Performing Math: A History of Communication and Anxiety in the American Mathematics Classroom (Rutgers University Press, 2020) by Dr. Andrew Fiss tells the history of expectations for math communication—and the conversations about math hatred and math anxiety that occurred in response.

Focusing on nineteenth-century American colleges, this book analyzes foundational tools and techniques of math communication: the textbooks that supported reading aloud, the burnings that mimicked pedagogical speech, the blackboards that accompanied oral presentations, the plays that proclaimed performers’ identities as math students, and the written tests that redefined “student performance.” Math communication and math anxiety went hand in hand as new rules for oral communication at the blackboard inspired student revolt and as frameworks for testing student performance inspired performance anxiety.

With unusual primary sources from over a dozen educational archives, Performing Math argues for a new, performance-oriented history of American math education, one that can explain contemporary math attitudes and provide a way forward to reframing the problem of math anxiety.

This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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Miranda Melcher

Miranda Melcher (Ph.D., Defense Studies, Kings College, London) studies post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with deep analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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