Mathematizing as a virtuous practice: different narratives and their consequences for mathematics education and society

Synthese 199 (1-2):3405-3429 (2020)
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There are different narratives on mathematics as part of our world, some of which are more appropriate than others. Such narratives might be of the form ‘Mathematics is useful’, ‘Mathematics is beautiful’, or ‘Mathematicians aim at theorem-credit’. These narratives play a crucial role in mathematics education and in society as they are influencing people’s willingness to engage with the subject or the way they interpret mathematical results in relation to real-world questions; the latter yielding important normative considerations. Our strategy is to frame current narratives of mathematics from a virtue-theoretic perspective. We identify the practice of mathematizing, put forward by Freudenthal’s ‘Realistic mathematics education’, as virtuous and use it to evaluate different narratives. We show that this can help to render the narratives more adequately, and to provide implications for societal organization.
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