The Political Shaping of Mathematical Learning

  • Tony Brown
Part of the Mathematics Education Library book series (MELI, volume 51)


The realities of the previous generation clearly impact on the next generation. These realities can firm up in relation to familiar forms that can result in conservative modes of education centred on delivery of these forms. The making of mathematics in classrooms now can sometimes be seen as subservient to the forms created and then favoured by the previous generation, who had been making mathematics, according to their own particular image, in the circumstances they had faced. In such instances, mathematics is referenced and anchored to the last people’s models, thereby shielding the dynamic and analytical aspects of mathematical capabilities that might be invoked in the new conditions. In school education more generally, adjustments to knowledge are processed through successive curriculum models and wider educational infrastructure shaped according to the preferences of the day, ostensibly on a long march to “improvement” or to “raise standards”. Curriculums can be variously understood: as an outline of mathematical content; a guide to mathematical learning by children; a cynical ploy to make teachers and children more accountable according to a particular institutionalised account of mathematics; or, a reconfiguration of the discipline itself to meet contemporary needs, etc. The evaluation instruments used are often referenced to objects from earlier knowledge bases. The instruments of assessment carry with them the modes of governance to which we are subject. The acquisition of settled knowledge is easier to govern than a learning attitude centred in experimentation and critique. And the demands of governance can suppress new perspectives and temper intellectual responsiveness.


Teacher Education Social Practice Classroom Mathematic Mathematical Content Mathematical Activity 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Manchester Metropolitan University, Education and Social Research InstituteDidsbury, ManchesterUK

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