PURPOSE AND HUMANISM IN MATHEMATICS EDUCATION RESEARCH
Alejandra Castillo, Gizem Karaali, Luke Fischinger, Prisca Diala.
Pomona College, Claremont, CA.
One of the most influential journals in mathematics education research opened with an editorial titled “Why to teach mathematics so as to be useful.” Thus began an extended discussion on the purpose(s) of mathematics education that continued across many years and volumes, though mainly appearing as one undercurrent or hidden assumption among many. In our daily lives as mathematics students and researchers, we often directly confront this same question: Why should I learn mathematics? Though this version frequently comes coated in subtle hostility toward the subject and may sometimes be cast aside as such, the underlying question is still worthy of our scrutiny and understanding: Why teach mathematics? This research presentation will focus on this question and attempt to document how attitudes toward purpose evolved among mathematics education researchers. In particular, we will note in our research the emergence and development of the humanist and social constructivist paradigms on the one hand, and the interlocked themes of discovery, inquiry, and active learning in the classroom on the other and analyze how their proponents engaged with the question of purpose. Analyzing the different purposes of why math should be taught can give us a better understanding of why math is being taught the way it is.