The Culture of Mathematics and the Mathematical Culture


In a recent study of the epistemologies of practising research mathematicians and how these related to and affected their disciplinary practices, I identified differences between the culture of mathematics, those aspects of mathematics which are recognizably discipline-related (such as the particular attitudes towards beauty, rigour, succinctness, etc.) and the mathematical culture, the socio-political attitudes, values and behaviours that constitute how mathematicians, and their students, experience mathematics in the settings of conferences, classrooms, tutorials, etc. In this chapter, I provide empirical justification for drawing this distinction and then explore the ways in which the culture of mathematics and the mathematical culture influence attitudes, behaviours and values within the discipline. Whereas aspects of the culture of mathematics have, historically, been defined as integral to mathematics and are seen as part of what students are expected to acquire in the process of becoming mathematicians, the mathematical culture is a product of stereotypes and biases that control who can enter the discipline and how they do so. However, it is not so easy to differentiate the two. I argue that it is the mathematical culture that creates barriers to entry by members of certain groups and facilitates others. Consequently, it is the mathematical culture that exercises power over how the culture of mathematics is understood. I conclude, therefore, that it is the mathematical culture that must be addressed if mathematics is to achieve widespread accessibility


Mathematic Classroom Mathematics Community Enquiry Style Mathematical Culture Epistemological Model 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Education (Mathematics and Science)University of BirminghamEngland

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