Mathematics Education, Society, and Peace

Facilitators: Arthur Powell and Sandy Dawson


"What do we mean by peace?"  "What ought to be the role of mathematics education in society?"  "What role can mathematics education play in a quest for peace?"  How can mathematics education integrate peace education?  Such integration would influence upon the following:

-       the goals of mathematics education,

-       the manner of how mathematics is presented to students,

-       the selection of contents as related to mathematics and real-world contexts,

-       teaching methods and organization, and

-       social interaction in classrooms, in schools, and in the larger society.

Increasingly, educators and researchers are arguing that mathematics and mathematics education ought to contribute to exposing dangers, responding to disastrous trends, and providing a basis for creating a saner and more just world.

Participants of this working group will be invited to explore these and other questions and assumptions as they relate to both the theory and practice of mathematics education.  This working group is based on the premise that if humans are to survive, we have to achieve peace, in its several dimensions: inner peace, social peace, environmental peace, economic peace, and military peace.  The working group will provide a forum where participants can address the task of finding ways through mathematics education to work toward greater peace by providing justifications, pointing out ways to approach it, and by suggesting—explicitly or implicitly—questions for needed research and development.

The working group leaders propose that the group focus initially on two broad areas:

  1. Mathematics education, philosophy and ethics

-      One of the questions addressed in this area is whether and why mathematics and mathematics education can be or should be subjected to ethical considerations.

-      An additional question is how awareness of the plurality of truth, as one—not yet well understood—feature of modern mathematics can provide a basis for the discovery of values (among them values which are preconditions for peace) and the shaping of interpretative frames.

  1. The use of mathematics education to contribute to peace.  For example, the working group might address the question of whether or not the use mathematical modeling or analyses of peace and conflict situations can

-      lead to a better understanding of situations and their dynamics - and thus to insight into chances or the impossibility to avoid escalation;

-      demonstrate that, in some cases, a mathematical model can lead to wrong or morally unacceptable conclusions;

-       assist students in becoming aware that there are situations where decisions must not be based on mathematical considerations alone;

-       illustrate that mathematics can be used to expose dangerous trends thus leading to the insight that counter-measures are badly needed; and

-      illustrate that mathematics itself can be part of the basis on which to build a "better" world.