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Truth and the renewal of knowledge: the case of mathematics education

Brown, Tony (2010) Truth and the renewal of knowledge: the case of mathematics education. ISSN 1573-0816

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Abstract

Mathematics education research must enable adjustment to new conditions. Yet such research is often conducted within familiar conceptualisations of teaching, of learning and of mathematics. It may be necessary to express ourselves in new ways if we are to change our practices successfully, and potential changes can be understood in many alternative, sometimes conflicting, ways. The paper argues that our entrapment in specific pedagogic forms of mathematical knowledge and the styles of teaching that go with them can constrain students’ engagement with processes of cultural renewal and changes in the ways in which mathematics may be framed for new purposes, but there are some mathematical truths that survive the changing circumstances that require us to update our understandings of teaching and learning the subject. In meeting this challenge, Radford encountered a difficulty in framing notions of mathematical objectivity and truth commensurate with a cultural–historical perspective. Following Badiou, this paper distinguishes between objectivity, which is seen necessarily as a product of culturally generated knowledge, and truth, as glimpsed beyond the on-going attempt to fit a new language that never finally settles. Through this route, it is shown how Badiou’s differentiation of knowledge and truth enables us to conjure more futuristic conceptions of mathematics education.

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