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Institutional contexts for research in mathematics education

Brown, T and Clarke, D (2013) Institutional contexts for research in mathematics education. In: Third International Handbook of Mathematics Education. Springer International Handbooks of Education . Springer, pp. 459-484. ISBN 9781461446842


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All rights are reserved. Mathematics has maintained an enduring image as a field of knowledge lending its resources to many intellectual pursuits and utilitarian enterprises. School mathematics, however, has increasingly learned to respond to a commonly conceived purpose of supplying the world's workforce with the resources needed to support economic wellbeing. The emergent regulation in support of this response has in some instances tempered more humanistic or idealistic conceptions of why we want to study mathematics. What had been introduced to measure school mathematics now defines and polices its boundaries. It has also privileged Western concerns in setting internationalized agenda. Mathematics, mathematics education and mathematics education research, this chapter suggests, are each conceptualized according to their location, reflecting and shaping each other, yet with each being governed by slightly different priorities. It is argued that schooling is increasingly shaped and judged by its perceived capacity to deliver success in terms of international competitiveness linked to economic agenda. This results in school mathematics being shaped to meet assessment requirements. The chapter shows how research increasingly finds its terms of reference set according to measuring delivery in these terms. It also shows how researchers become complicit in promoting particular conceptions of teaching and in constructing the field as an ideological battleground. Such complicity, it is suggested, combined with the relative insularity of the field, prevents us from occupying other worlds that might define us and serve us in different ways. The chapter concludes with a consideration of the prospects of research in mathematics education and the extent to which this activity is enabled or restricted by existing institutional contexts in re-shaping its ambitions to engage with the diversity of future needs.

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