Original Research

Excavating memories: A retrospective analysis of mathematics teachers’ foregrounds

Nyna Amin
Pythagoras | Vol 33, No 2 | a178 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v33i2.178 | © 2012 Nyna Amin | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 May 2012 | Published: 05 December 2012

About the author(s)

Nyna Amin, School of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


This article offers a retrospective analysis of mathematics teachers’ experiences as learners in school to examine their foregrounds. Based on Skovsmose’s notion, foregrounds are perceptions of possibilities, impossibilities, hope and despair made by an individual whose life chances are compromised by socio-political adversities and economic deprivation. Since foregrounds are imagined it is not possible to be certain about how the future is realised without engaging in a longitudinal study spanning decades. One way to attempt to do so is through memory work, that is, by excavating the memories of persons who are already living in their foreground. Three mathematics teachers were recruited through snowball sampling to share their memories of teachers of mathematics, learning mathematics in schools and how they envisioned the future. The analysis revealed how exposure to mathematics teaching and learning when they were learners is implicated in shaping the foregrounds of teachers, and the ways in which teacher foregrounds are connected to personal and national development. The participants’ narratives confirmed that, although a foreground is shaped by prevailing conditions, a view to a viable future requires an optimism that goes beyond present situations.


foregrounds; memory work; development


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