Why Learn Maths, London University Institute of Education, London, 1. To reproduce mathematical skill and knowledge based capability
The typical traditional reproductive mathematics curriculum has focused exclusively on this first aim, comprising a narrow reading of mathematical capability. At the highest level, not always realised, the learner learns to answer questions posed by the teacher or text. As is argued elsewhere (Ernest 1991) this serves not only to reproduce mathematical knowledge and skills in the learner, but to reproduce the social order and social injustice as well.
2. To develop creative capabilities in mathematics
The progressive mathematics teaching movement has added a second aim, to allow the learner to be creative and express herself in mathematics, via problem solving, investigational work, using a variety of representations, and so on. This allows the learner to pose mathematical questions, puzzles and problems, as well as to solve them. This notion adds the idea of creative personal development and the skills of mathematical questioning as a goal of schooling, but remains trapped in an individualistic ideology that fails to acknowledge the social and societal contexts of schooling, and thus tacitly endorses the social status quo.
3. To develop empowering mathematical capabilities and a critical appreciation of the social applications and uses of mathematics
Critical mathematics education adds in a third aim, the empowerment of the learner through the development of critical mathematical literacy capabilities and the critical appreciation of the mathematics embedded in social and political contexts. Thus the empowered learner will not only be able to pose and solve mathematical questions, but also be able to address important questions relating to the broad range of social uses (and abuses) of mathematics. This is a radical perspective and set of aims concerned with both the political and social empowerment of the learner and with the promotion of social justice, and which is realised in mainstream school education almost nowhere. However, the focus in the appreciation element developed in this perspective is on the external social contexts of mathematics. Admittedly these may include the history of mathematics and its past and present cultural contexts, but these do not represent any full treatment of mathematical appreciation.
4. To develop an inner appreciation of mathematics: its big ideas and nature
This fourth aim adds in further dimension of mathematical appreciation, namely the inner appreciation of mathematics, including the big ideas and nature of mathematics. The appreciation of mathematics as making a unique contribution to human culture with special concepts and a powerful aesthetic of its own, is an aim for school mathematics often neglected by mathematicians and users of mathematics alike. It is common for persons like these to emphasise capability at the expense of appreciation, and external applications at the expense of its inner nature and values. One mistake that may be made in this connection is the assumption that an inner appreciation of mathematics cannot be developed without capability. Thus, according to this assumption, the student cannot appreciate infinity, proof, catastrophe theory and chaos, for example, unless they have developed capability in these high level mathematical topics, which is out of the question at school. The fourth aim questions this assumption and suggests that an inner appreciation of mathematics is not only possible but desirable to some degree for all students at school..(2000)