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ERIC Number: ED513134
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 194
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1092-4627-8
Math Wars: A Rhetorical Analysis of the Terms of Debate
Muzaffar, Irfan
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Michigan State University
This study concerns itself with the conflict in mathematics education--popularly known as "math wars"--in the United States. More specifically, it investigates the "terms of debate" in this conflict to develop insights into the varied, and sometimes conflicting, relationships between the perceived nature of mathematics and its pedagogy. It also extends the use of rhetorical analysis to understand the ways in which the rhetoric of "standards" was at odds with the idea of "mathematical power for all." The study centres its analysis on terms--such as "mathematical power" or "proficiency"--that became the sites of contestations. It explores the internal logic of particular clusters of terms, and the relations between them in several significant texts about mathematics and mathematics education. To perform this analysis, I have chosen the image of drama offered by Kenneth Burke due to its emphasis on conflict. Image of drama is invoked because of its relevance to an understanding of conflict. This image invokes particular "scenes", populated with particular "agents" engaged in "purposeful acts" using "means" available to them. As an analytical device to study mathematics education texts, it implies the recognition that any text having to do with mathematics education implicitly or explicitly would have some description of "background" or "scene" against which mathematicians, teachers of mathematics, or students ["actors," that is] would appear as engaged in purposive "acts" of doing, teaching, or learning mathematics. There are two kinds of texts examined in this dissertation. The first kind of texts are those written long before the current conflicts around mathematics education reforms--i.e. the texts by well-known mathematicians such as Rene Descartes, Bertrand Russell, and the 19th century American mathematician Benjamin Pierce. Second kind of texts examined in this dissertation were generated as part of the mathematics education reforms, which were constituted in the wake of crisis calls to reform education in the early to mid 1980s. The dramatistic analysis of these texts suggests that terms such as "mathematical power for all" and "mathematical proficiency for all" were bound up in two different conceptions of mathematics and its teaching and learning. While the former represented a merger of mathematics and pedagogy, the latter emphasized their separation. The study also discusses the implication of these suggestions for professional claims of mathematics education. In the final chapter, the study uses dramatistic analysis together with the notion of "American Jeremiad"--a reference to perpetual announcements of impending doom and calls for reform in American history--to develop insights about the relative strength of reform texts in a scene set up by the Jeremiad of "A Nation at Risk." The insights so developed suggest that mathematics education reforms' strength as well as their vulnerability accrued from their reliance on the rhetoric of "standards." [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States