Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | July 8, 2014

Calling a spade a spade

Calling a spade a spade: Mathematics in the new pattern of division of labour

Abstract
The growing disconnection of the majority of population from mathematics is
becoming a phenomenon that is increasingly difficult to ignore. This paper
attempts to point to deeper roots of this cultural and social phenomenon. It
concentrates on mathematics education, as the most important and better
documented area of interaction of mathematics with the rest of human culture.
I argue that new patterns of division of labour have dramatically changed the
nature and role of mathematical skills needed for the labour force and
correspondingly changed the place of mathematics in popular culture and in the
mainstream education. The forces that drive these changes come from the tension
between the ever deepening specialisation of labour and ever increasing length
of specialised training required for jobs at the increasingly sharp cutting
edge of technology.
Unfortunately these deeper socio-economic origins of the current systemic
crisis of mathematics education are not clearly spelt out, neither in cultural
studies nor, even more worryingly, in the education policy discourse; at the
best, they are only euphemistically hinted at.
This paper is an attempt to describe the socio-economic landscape of
mathematics education without resorting to euphemisms.

Also uploaded to Academia.edu and arXiv.

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