Humanities and maths

Mathematics and humanities are often perceived as separate disciplines with distinct approaches to knowledge. However, there is great potential in integrating the humanities into mathematics education. By incorporating humanistic perspectives, values, and contexts into the teaching of mathematics, students can develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the subject. 

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

By integrating humanities into mathematics education, students are encouraged to think critically and explore the broader implications of mathematical concepts. This approach allows students to analyze the ethical, social, and historical dimensions of mathematics, fostering a deeper understanding of its significance and relevance. As noted by Ernest, incorporating humanities into mathematics education enables students to engage in critical discussions about mathematics, its applications, and its impact on society (Ernest, 2015). 

Cultivating Cultural Understanding

Mathematics is a universal language that transcends cultural barriers. The incorporation of humanities into mathematics education helps students appreciate the cultural diversity inherent in mathematical practices. Students can explore the historical development of mathematics in different cultures and societies, gaining insights into the contributions and perspectives of diverse communities. This approach promotes cultural understanding and challenges stereotypes about mathematics being a monolithic discipline (Frankenstein, 2005). 

L’uomo vitruviano di Leonardo da Vinci 

Promoting Real-World Applications

The integration of humanities into mathematics education provides students with opportunities to explore real-world applications of mathematical concepts. By incorporating humanistic contexts, students can apply mathematical reasoning to address societal issues, such as economic inequalities, environmental sustainability, and social justice. This approach encourages students to see mathematics as a powerful tool for understanding and transforming the world around them (Saxe, Gearhart, & Nasir, 2018). 

Enhancing Creativity and Imagination

The humanities foster creativity and imagination, and their integration into mathematics education can inspire students to think innovatively and explore alternative problem-solving approaches. By introducing literature, art, and historical narratives, students can see mathematics as a dynamic and evolving field, sparking their curiosity and motivation to explore mathematical concepts in novel ways (Bressoud, 2015). 

Incorporating humanities into the teaching of mathematics offers numerous advantages for students. It promotes critical thinking, cultural understanding, and real-world applications of mathematical concepts. By emphasizing the humanistic aspects of mathematics, educators can foster a deeper appreciation for the subject, encourage creativity, and provide students with a well-rounded education. This integration not only enhances students’ mathematical skills, but also equips them with the ability to engage meaningfully with the world and address complex challenges. 

  • Bressoud, D. M. (2015). Why the humanities matter in mathematics education. Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 62(10), 1180-1183. 
  • Ernest, P. (2015). Affect, belief, and learning mathematics. In A. Gutiérrez, G. C. Leder, & P. Boero (Eds.), The Second Handbook of Research on the Psychology of Mathematics Education (pp. 3-33). Sense Publishers. 
  • Frankenstein, M. (2005). Cultivating mathematical identities in multicultural classrooms. In M. Brenner & J. Moschkovich (Eds.), Everyday and Academic Mathematics in the Classroom (pp. 129-144). NCTM. 
  • Saxe, G. B., Gearhart, M., & Nasir, N. S. (2018). Amplifying identity narratives in mathematics classrooms: Extending the conversation. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education 
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