Mathematics by All

Part of the Mathematics Education Library book series (MELI, volume 14)


The argument in this chapter is that mathematics, even before its professionalisation, has always been the domain of the select few. Attempts have been made, in recent times, to challenge the Eurocentric bias in mathematics and this has led to a greater appreciation of the mathematical contributions of different cultures. While there is an ackowledgement that mathematics is a pan-human activity, there is no evidence either in the history of mathematics or in mathematical practice today, to support the belief that, within a particular cultural context, mathematics was widely practised by the majority. The social arrangements of early civilisations were such that only the rich, the powerful, the influential, had access to mathematical knowledge. At times there was almost a conspiracy to keep the codified mathematical knowledge as secret as possible. Since there was no mass schooling until about a century ago, this kind of knowledge was only passed down within a certain ‘brotherhood’. The fact that state schools have now become a given in most societies offers us the unique opportunity to make mathematics accessible to all. Yet, in spite of a century of mathematics instruction, most people still feel alienated from the subject. In this chapter I argue that we need specific strategies to address this in order to encourage those who have been traditionally under-represented to participate in the production and use of mathematical knowledge. In particular, there should be a shift from seeing mathematics as involving the “interpretation of symbolic information” to an emphasis on situating it in the realm of everyday experiences of people.


Mathematical Knowledge School Mathematics Mathematical Idea Affective Commitment Algebraic Thinking 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics EducationCongellaSouth Africa

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