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Critical Mathematics for Critical Times. Keiko Yasukawa University of Technology Sydney [email protected] What is critical mathematics? What critical times – critical for whom? What has maths got to do with it? And what has any of this got to do with any of us?.

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Critical Mathematics for Critical Times

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Critical mathematics for critical times l.jpg

Critical Mathematics for Critical Times

Keiko Yasukawa

University of Technology Sydney

[email protected]

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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  • What is critical mathematics?

  • What critical times – critical for whom?

  • What has maths got to do with it?

  • And what has any of this got to do with any of us?

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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What is critical mathematics?

  • The maths that is most important?

  • Maths as a tool for critique?

  • A critique of mathematics?

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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A ‘Wordle’ of the Australian Core Skills Framework: Numeracy section – what is ‘critical’ in the ACSF?

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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Critical education

‘If educational practice and research are to be critical, they must address conflicts and crises in society’

(Skovsmose 1994, p. 24).

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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Conflicts & crises in society

A global financial crisis and recession

Climate change and global warming

According to Ulrich Beck, these conflicts and crises are:

….. manufactured uncertainties, products of the reflexivity of techno-scientific development

…. the conditions of the risk society (Beck 1986)

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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Changes in our understanding about mathematics -

from maths as Absolute, pre-fabricated by nature? God?

to maths as Fallible, a human/ social construction

and also maths as constructor of reality

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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Mathematics as a formatting power – mathematics represents as well as constructs the world

  • mathematics is a tool for imagining alternative futures that cannot be conceived without the analytical and constructive (modeling) capabilities that mathematics can afford;

  • mathematics enables hypothetical reasoning by enabling us to examine details of situations that have yet to be realized; and

  • when choices that have been made imaginable and realizable through the functions of mathematics are implemented, mathematics enters into the social world and becomes part of the fabric of social realities.

  • (Skovsmose and Yasukawa 2004)

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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Some examples of the formatting power of mathematics

  • the ‘ideal’ body size

  • ‘trust’ between people communicating over the internet

  • equity and a fair workload

  • ecological footprints

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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‘Formatting’ power of mathematics: the ideal body shape: an activity by Swapna Mukhopadhay (2005) to challenge popular culture and to interrogate inequality in global labour

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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‘Formatting’ power of mathematics: equity and a fair workload: how do you mathematise fairness?

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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Education in an audit society?

Contemporary public sector reforms and the ensuing policies in the UK, USA and Australia and elsewhere have led to the development of the ‘audit society’ and ‘audit cultures’ … the major concern has been with issues of public accountability by making practices and processes more transparent as well as efficient, effective and economic. In practice, this has meant that, in its attempts to reduce any risk to the national involvement in its human capital, the state has sought to control and standardise the provision of such essential services as education and health.

(Groundwater-Smith & Sachs 2002, p. 341)

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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A ‘Wordle’ of ACAL’s response to DEWWR’s LLNP Discussion Paper, 2008 – a response to the aduit society?

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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Qualculation –as the propensity to‘enumerate, list, display, relate, transform, rank and sum’ Qualculation as a process of proliferation - in which entities are detached from other contexts, reworked, displayed, related, manipulated, transformed and summed in a single space.(Callon & Law 2003, p. 13)

From calculating to qualculating

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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The project of modernity, Enlightenment, is unfinished. Its actual rigidification in the industrial understanding of science and technology can be broken open by a revival of reason and converted into a dynamic theory of scientific rationality which digests historical experience and in that way develops itself further in a way that is capable of learning.(Beck 1986, pp 157-158)

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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"beating the system" is a very active way to stay frozen in the system.It is a means to outsmart captialism by playing within the rules of the business world. In the end, you wind up devoting huge amounts of time learning the ropes of the system, and none to rejecting the social model. (Shore 1987, p. 59)

What does it mean to engage in critical education?

Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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Numeracy in the Employability Skills Framework

Using numeracy effectively.

(DEST 2002)

What meaning of ‘effectiveness’ can critical mathematics guide us to consider?


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Keiko Yasukawa ACAL conference 2009


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