Call for a Change in Mathematics Education: From Platonism to Social Constructivism


At school, children are expected to become numerate in order to be able to function in a modern technological society and contribute to the growth of its economy. However, one of the most frequent complaints of mathematics teachers is that “forgetting is particularly common for knowledge acquired in school, and much of this material is lost within days or weeks of learning” (Rohrer & Taylor, 2006, p. 1209). In mathematics education, as Renert (2011) noted, influenced significantly by Platonism, early mathematics was popularly viewed as consisting of abstract mathematical objects, which have no causal properties linking them to their environment. Social constructivists challenged Plato’s assumptions about mathematics for ruling out social dimensions in its teaching and learning. They argued that mathematics is the theory of form and structure that arises within language (Zakaria & Iksan, 2007) and that mathematics learning acquires an alignment with its cultural practices through communicative practices or dialogic interactions (Cobb & Bauersfeld, 1995). Thus, in this paper, we present a theoretical synthesis of the specialized literature in the learning and teaching of mathematics, with the aim of calling for a change in mathematics education from Platonism to social constructivism. As stated by Vygotsky (1978, p. 90): “[procedure-oriented learning] does not aim for a new stage of the developmental process, but rather lags behind this process”, we argue that mathematics teaching and learning cannot afford to continue with the “teaching to the test” culture.

Author Information
Hui-Chuan Li, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Brunei Darussalam
Tsung-Lung Tsai, National Changhua University of Education, Taiwan

Paper Information
Conference: ACEID2017
Stream: Education for sustainable development

This paper is part of the ACEID2017 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon