, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 391-408

Can Mathematics Education and History of Mathematics Coexist?

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Abstract

Despite the wide interest in combining mathematics education and the history of mathematics, there are grave and fundamental problems in this effort. The main difficulty is that while one wants to see historical topics in the classroom or an historical approach in teaching, the commitment to teach the modern mathematics and modern mathematical techniques necessary in thepure and applied sciences forces one either to trivialize history or to distortit. In particular, this commitment forces one to adopt a “Whiggish” approach to the history of mathematics. Two possible resolutions of the difficulty are (1) “radical separation” – putting the history of mathematics on a separate track from the ordinary course of instruction, and (2) “radical accommodation” – turning the study of mathematics into the study of mathematical texts.