Epistemic injustice in mathematics education
journal contributionposted on 22.06.2020, 08:35 by Fenner Tanswell, Colin Rittberg
Equity and ethics in the learning of mathematics is a major topic for mathematics education research. The study of ethics and injustice in relation to epistemic pursuits, such as mathematics, is receiving a great deal of interest within contemporary philosophy. We propose a bridging project between these two disciplines, importing key ideas of “epistemic injustice” and “ethical orders” from philosophy into mathematics education to address questions of ethics, equity, values and norms. We build on Dawkins and Weber’s (Educ Stud Math 95:123–142, 2017) “apprenticeship model” of learning proofs and proving, which says that mathematics education should reflect the practices of research mathematicians. Focusing on the norms and values implicit in mathematical proving, we argue that deploying this model unreflectively can lead to “epistemic injustices” in which learners are disadvantaged based on their cultural or class background. We propose thinking about the problem in terms of Max Weber’s “ethical orders”, and the clash that arises between the ethical orders of mathematics and the existing ethical orders of the learners and teachers of mathematics. Weber’s lesson is that sometimes these clashes have no overarching resolution, and so the mathematics classroom may also have to settle for tailored pragmatic measures to combat individual cases of epistemic injustice.
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO), project G056716N
Centre for Mathematical Cognition at Loughborough University
- Mathematics Education Centre