The paper presents and explores the experience of maths students studying in a context shaped by a core concept maths curriculum. The three vignettes that illuminate experience are drawn from a larger research project that worked with five teachers and 630 learners aged 16–18 in Further Education classrooms in England. Analysis involved distinguishing different understandings of being good at maths, different views of a good maths curriculum and identifying enablers and barriers to being a ‘successful’ maths student. Dewey’s ideas about focused experience and collateral learning were used to deepen this analysis. The paper reports a surprising finding. In some cases, students recognize the positive impact learning maths had on developing their wider human capabilities. Maths teachers in England, working in the context of ‘new public management’, may find reasons to take heart from the accounts of teaching and learning presented. For the international reader who is grappling with the challenge of reengaging maths students, the accounts of what matters to students could spur a reconsideration of priorities and practice.
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