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Secondary Magazine - Issue 68: Philosophy of Mathematics Education - a free web journal

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 02 September 2010 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 13 September 2010 by ncetm_administrator


Secondary Magazine Issue 68academic journals - photograph by michael newman used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic licence

Teaching and learning mathematics – a free web journal!

The Philosophy of Mathematics Education journal publishes research and ideas about the teaching and learning of mathematics from a philosophical viewpoint. Since it became freely available many teachers of mathematics at all levels have found its papers informative and eye-opening. It is accessed via the homepage of the editor, Paul Ernest. The journal is published on the web annually, and the current issue and all past issues can be accessed via this link. The next issue (Number 25) will be published during the autumn (2010).

The aim of the journal is to question and discuss deep ideas that underpin the mathematics curriculum and the teaching and learning of mathematics. It encourages teachers and researchers to share their thoughts and findings about a very broad range of theoretical and philosophical issues, from algebraic errors to zero as a sign.

What has philosophy got to do with the teaching and learning of mathematics?

A widely accepted belief is that:

All mathematical pedagogy, even if scarcely coherent, rests on a philosophy of mathematics. René Thom

Researchers have found that:

Teachers’ views, beliefs and preferences about mathematics do influence their instructional practice. Alba Thompson

So a strong justification for the importance of philosophy for the teaching and learning of mathematics is that philosophies of mathematics and of education, often expressed in informal ideas and beliefs, both play a central role in the way the mathematics curriculum is structured and interpreted. Such philosophies also have a powerful impact through the ways that maths teachers present their subject and use resources such as ICT in the classroom.

What issues does the journal discuss?

Some of the many questions and topics that have been discussed are:

  • is there a best way to teach mathematics? Do investigations, problem solving and discovery learning work? Can ICT make the teaching of mathematics better or more effective?  
  • what are teachers’ personal beliefs and philosophies of mathematics? Are these reflected in our teaching, and if so, how and to what extent? Are there gaps between our beliefs and practices? Do schools unintentionally encourage such gaps?
  • what are the aims of teaching and learning maths? Are these aims valid? Whose aims are they? For whom? Based on what values? Who gains and who loses? How does mathematics contribute to the overall goals of society and education?
  • what is mathematics? How can its unique characteristics be accommodated in a philosophy? Is mathematics discovered or invented? Is it timeless and ‘god-given’ or socially constructed? There is a raging controversy over these questions!
  • how is mathematics learned?  What learning theories have been developed? This leads to another controversy concerning constructivist and social theories of learning mathematics. How much do children create their own knowledge? How can and should maths learning be assessed? What is mathematical ability and how can it be fostered? Is mathematics accessible to all?
  • is there a best method for researching the teaching and learning of mathematics? Has the philosophical conflict between the scientific (quantitative) and the interpretative (qualitative) research paradigms been resolved?

There have also been themed issues treating such topics as:

  • mathematics in art
  • social justice in mathematics teaching
  • mathematics and the use of signs.

The next issue (Number 25) has Critical Mathematics Education as its theme. This raises more controversy by asking political questions such as:

  • can politics and human values have any relevance for mathematics?
  • how can mathematics education help citizens relate to society and enhance democracy?
  • how can mathematics critically assess itself and its uses in education and society? 

The journal includes and welcomes contributions from people in all roles in mathematics education; from students and teachers, researchers and world-class scholars. If you have a preliminary idea, a course assignment or a finished paper, feel free to send it to me, the editor – you are guaranteed a friendly response! Your own ideas are probably more interesting and useful to other teachers and researchers than you realise. Currently many issues have had over 5 000 hits and the overall webpage more than 100 000 visitors.

Paul Ernest, editor, Philosophy of Mathematics Education journal 

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