Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Article: Introduction: The topos of meaning or the encounter between past and present

Luis Radford, Fulvia Furinghetti and Victor Katz: Introduction: The topos of meaning or the encounter between past and present, Educational studies in mathematics (2007) 66: 111-129.

This article works as a foreword for the special issue. In addition to outlining the contents of the issue, it also argues for the role of history of mathematics in mathematics education.

"Learning by doing" is a well-known slogan in modern pedagogy, and extreme constructivists will argue that a pupil will have to construct all knowledge on his experiences. (I'm not saying that Dewey himself had this view.) The authors quote Leontiev, who said that
"No one's personal experience, no matter how rich it might be, can result in thinking logically, abstractly and mathematically, and in individually establishing a system of ideas. To do this, one would need not just one lifetime, but thousands."

The authors continue: "The very possibility of learning rests in our capability of immersing ourselves - in idiosyncratic, critical and reflective ways - in the conceptual historical riches deposited in, and continuously modified by, social practices."

And studying the history of mathematics is one way of being immersed in this while asking questions we might not ask when we are faced with modern methods.

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