Rejecting platonism: Recovering humanity in mathematics education

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In this paper, I consider a pervasive myth in mathematics education, that of Plato-formalism. I show that this myth is ahistorical, acultural, and harmful, both for mathematics and for society. I argue that, as teachers, we should reject the myth of Plato-formalism and instead understand mathematics as a human activity. This philosophy humanizes mathematics and implies that math education should be active, cultural, historical, social, and critical—helping students learn formal mathematics, while also learning that mathematics shapes their lives, that this shaping is a result of human work and choices, and that students are empowered to shape those choices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number43
JournalEducation Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • Critical theory
  • Formalism
  • Philosophy of mathematics
  • Platonism
  • Sociocultural


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