Crucial Descriptions: Toward Critique of Theory, Practice and Research

  • Renuka Vithal
Part of the Mathematics Education Library book series (MELI, volume 32)


Having sketched a theoretical landscape for a social, cultural, political approach to a mathematics curriculum, and then the details and debates of researching such a critical perspective in a mathematics classroom, I now come to the task of providing a description of the practices produced in this endeavour.


Mathematics Education Research Participant Student Teacher Theoretical Idea Educational Practice 
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  1. i.
    In a provocative paper titled, “What’s the use of theory?” Gary Thomas (1997) makes several criticisms of the use of theory in education. In arguing against the use of theory, he points to the multiple meanings ascribed to theory in education discourse as the opposite of practice; as hypothesis; as developing explanation; and as ideas formally expressed in a series of statements. One of his main problems with theory is the way in which academics and researchers subscribe to theory, which then constrains innovation and creativity in education. What Thomas does not pay sufficient attention to, is how such theories come to be produced and to occupy such powerful places in educational discourse. However, he does indirectly point to the need for educational researchers to be clearer about why and how they use theory in their research.Google Scholar
  2. ii.
    This understanding of theory and practice can also be applied in the context of personal theories, which it is claimed all practitioners have, and may explain the discrepancy often reported in research between what teachers believe and say and what they do in practice. The problem of theory and practice does not disappear even in the situation of teacher as researcher as Seeger (1994; p. 284) points out, instead it “shifts from the inter-individual to the intra-individual plane”.Google Scholar
  3. iii.
    Lave and Wenger (1991) developed the idea with respect to access to practice and Adler (1998) applies it to the use of resources in school mathematics.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renuka Vithal
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Durban-WestvilleDurbanSouth Africa

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