Breaking Boundaries: The limits of mathematics education research and the ‘progressive’ subject

Anna Llewellyn (Durham University, UK)

In this article, I use a Foucauldian approach, to critique key taken-for-granted truths of mathematics education - that mathematics education research is heavily and uncritically invested in: progress; progressive pedagogies and the ‘free’ autonomous subject. I argue that this relies on a ‘natural’ mathematical child, who is posited as asocial, acultural and apolitical. Hence, I suggest that mathematics education, and the mathematical child, are not natural but instead are social, cultural and political products. The natural and ‘free’ child is produced through covert surveillance and monitoring. This is particular to neoliberalism and particular to the regimes of truth that circulate within mathematics education research. I suggest some considerations, for mathematics education researchers. That we should question what else we do when we place certain behaviours upon pedestals, and that we should interrupt dominant discourses of mathematics education. This means a reconsideration of how we do research, how we build ideas, and how we limit and ‘engineer’ what it is possible to say. It means we consider, how we allow certain versions of the ‘truth’ to propagate and how we restrict others. For example, we must query what we mean by progress, or the progressive mathematics child, and instead examine its cultural relevance and our own investments.

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Breaking Boundaries: The limits of mathematics education research and the ‘progressive’ subject
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Anna Llewellyn (Durham University, UK)
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