Socio-Cultural Bases for Mathematical Education

  • Ubiratan D’Ambrosio


Mathematics Education is going through one of the most critical periods in its long history, a history recorded since western classical antiquity. The prominent role of mathematics in Greek civilisation placed mathematics in a unique position in the roots of modern science and technology, and in the development of the universal model of an industrial society. Even the most critical periods in the history of mathematics education (which were the invention of writing and the adoption of the Hindu-Arabic number system in Europe), had a less dramatic and global effect on society than the period we are living through. This current era is witnessing both the emergence of what might be called the electronic era and profound changes in the social, political and economic texture of the world. Through the universal concept of mass education in a fast changing world, ‘mathematics for all’ reaches an unprecedented dimension as a social endeavour, and it makes it urgent to question, in a much deeper and broader way than ever before, its sociocultural roots, and, indeed, the place of mathematics education in societies as a whole. Being in such a privileged position in western thought, mathematics may be, at the same time, an essential instrument in building up modern societies and a strong disrupting factor in cultural dynamics. As well, mathematics exerts a strong influence on the unbalancing factor which threatens the needed equilibrium between those who have and those who have not. An equilibrium has to be achieved if we want to look at our species as behaving in a more dignified way than it has in its long history. If we hope for a better world, in the utopian view, without human beings massively exploiting and killing each other, we have to examine the role of mathematics education in bringing a new human dimension into relations between individuals, societies and cultures.


Mathematics Education Cultural Root Mathematics Practice Cultural Dynamic Western Thought 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ubiratan D’Ambrosio
    • 1
  1. 1.State University of CampinasBrazil

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