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Connecting Mathematics with Reason

By  and Joan L. Richards and Joan L. Richards


We are often told to study history to learn from past mistakes, but this is a vain hope; history does not repeat itself such that we can use it to predict the future. But avoiding mistakes does not exhaust the ways history can be used to illuminate the present. One way in which it is most useful is as a check on how we organize and understand our world. Looking at history can help us see the hidden issues and assumptions that lie behind how we talk and think about that world. The arguments that in the past have justified the place of mathematics in education may shed light on the challenges we face today as we try to understand and further quantitative literacy. Mathematics in Eighteenth-Century France One of the defining moments contributing to our modern view of the educational value of mathematics occurred in France at the end of the eighteenth century. In the immediate post-revolutionary period, the education of the new French citizen was a major preoccupation. From the Enlightenment came the conviction that man was a rational animal; teaching mathematics was of major importance in the post-revolutionary educational program to strengthen the reason of the new citoyen, or citizen. A form of quantitative literacy that linked mathematical instruction with reason made mathematics an integral part of the curriculum in the Écoles Centrales, the short-lived revolutionary schools of the 1790s. The rhetoric surrounding these schools was stirring, but its institutional manifestation was short-lived; by the time Napoleon came to power, th

Year: 2009
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