Innovating the mathematics curriculum in times of change: towards local and global relevance

We live in an era of economic, political and ecological change that requires rethinking of relations between humans, and between humans and the material world. Climate change, resource depletion, poverty, inequality, and mobility are urgent issues for communities that have suffered from geohistorical processes of colonialism and neoliberal globalisation. These issues are often felt first and most intensely by these communities, yet they are increasingly on agendas across the globe. In such an era, there are urgent questions about how a curriculum, at any level of education, can become relevant to the needs and concerns of students, especially those local concerns that relate to global challenges.

Our specific focus is on mathematics in a Higher Education context; both mathematics curricula for prospective school mathematics teachers, and for students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programmes. Our team, comprised of researchers on four continents, will work with curriculum experts and disciplinary specialists in mathematics, climate science and indigenous knowledge, to answer the following nested research questions:

  1. What mathematics curricula in Higher Education are relevant to students in their local contexts, in a globally connected world? ‘Relevance’ here means connecting the curriculum to particularities of place, context, ecology. This is inclusive of indigenous ways of knowing, disregarded through processes of colonisation and globalisation.
  2. What are the processes by which a mathematics curriculum for prospective teachers or STEM graduates adapts to become relevant to students in a particular context?
  3. What are the processes by which Higher Education researchers in different contexts, characterised by historical asymmetries, can collaborate to produce knowledge about curriculum change, that is locally and globally relevant?

The focus on mathematics, as part of developing a contextually relevant Higher Education in this project, is significant: the subject mathematics holds a privileged place in the curriculum across the globe. Quality mathematics education is regarded as necessary for socio-economic development and scientific innovation, and in many contexts, mathematics is used as a gate-keeping subject, in terms of students’ access to jobs and opportunities. In addition, indigenous mathematical knowledge and ways of knowing that prioritize relationships with both the living and non-living world have been oppressed during processes of colonialism. Yet these ways of knowing are beginning to inform mathematics and science education. Hence there is a need to learn about how mathematics can become relevant to the needs and concerns of students who can make positive contributions in local society and respond to global challenges.

Kate Le Roux, University of Cape Town, SA
Alf Coles, University of Bristol, UK
Elaine Simmt, University of Alberta, Canada
Oi-Lam Ng, The Chinese University Hong Kong, HK
Sally Wai-yan Wan, The Chinese University Hong Kong, HK
Armando Solares, CINVESTAV, Mexico
Tracy Helliwell, University of Bristol, UK
Julian Brown, University of Bristol, UK
Elizabeth de Freitas, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Nathalie Sinclair, Simon Fraser University, Canada
Mark Boylan, Sheffield Hallam University, UK