Pragmatic mathematics : representations of thought and action

Hooley, Neil (2005) Pragmatic mathematics : representations of thought and action. Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues, 8 (1). pp. 12-23. ISSN 1440 - 5202


This philosophical essay canvasses a number of themes in relation to a more inclusive approach to school mathematics for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. As an alternative to current arrangements, the term 'pragmatic mathematics' is suggested as an organising concept of primary and secondary mathematics that emphasises learning by doing and reflection. Accordingly, the essay criticises school mathematics as being overly formalist and procedural and lacking a basis of socio-cultural practice. On the other hand, it is argued that pragmatic mathematics builds upon the enquiry philosophy of Dewey (see McDermott, 1981) and encourages long-term cycles of reflective practice where original and personal mathematical ideas are constructed from personal experience. Learning outcomes are uncertain and are not specified, but do occur within a framework of recognised mathematical knowledge. Clearly, pragmatic mathematics must be democratic and interpretive in orientation and not impose predetermined truth on learners.

Item type Article
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 330000 Education
Historical > RFCD Classification > 220000 Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts-General
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Education
Keywords Australian Indigenous education, school mathematics, representations of knowledge
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