Date of Award

Winter 2000

Project Type


Program or Major

Mathematics Education

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Karen J Graham


Research has shown that mathematics as we know it is a product of the socio-cultural climate in which it was developed. This research attempts to address the related question of how being involved in mathematics influences the socio-cultural lives of mathematicians. A new Ph.D. mathematician hired in his first faculty position was observed for a period of 13 weeks, most during his first semester. Analysis of this long-term, in depth case study followed ethnographic methods and drew on theories of rites of passage, organizational socialization, self-identity, and evolution. The role of mathematics in the departmental culture and in the newcomer's enculturation is investigated. Societal prejudice in favor of innumeracy as well as the newcomer's personal struggle with finding a balance between his own sense of the importance of academic freedom and a perceived expectation of uniformity strongly influenced enculturation process. This process is described as an instance of punctuated equilibrium. Implications for the academy and for mathematics education research are discussed.