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A Contemporary Theory of Mathematics Education Research

Tony Brown
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Frederic Morneau-Guerin
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In this book, the author attempts to identify the domain, clarify the objective and specify the functioning of research in mathematics education. Continuing in the same vein as in his previous publications and drawing extensively on them, Tony Brown presents a theoretical discussion of how we understand mathematical knowledge; addresses certain elements of curriculum framework that are considered arbitrary and certain evaluation criteria involved in the “social construction of mathematics in educational institutions” (p.8), examines how teachers cope with the pressure related to their work and with the requirements of training programs, and finally, seeks to determine how the practices used in training teachers are reflected in the classroom practice of new teachers.
Throughout the chapters, the author offers a vehement criticism of learner-centred approaches that have become very tightly structured around the legal specifications of the mathematics curriculum. The professor of mathematics education at Manchester Metropolitan University pulls no punches against the mathematics curriculums that he considers to be too rigid and constraining.  These are the product of an “obsessive ’audit culture’” (p.1). They are formatted “for consumption in schools” (p.32) and force a “homogenization of pedagogical practices” (p.2). This critique is coupled with a plea for teachers to have more professional autonomy. His call for schoolchildren to have more opportunities to freely explore the “mathematical terrain” (p.31), on the other hand, is certainly sincere, well-intentioned and generous in its aim, but it might appear a little naive or idealistic. At the end of the book, Tony Brown also settles old scores with Wolff-Michael Roth, Lansdowne Professor of Applied Cognitive Science at University of Victoria, by responding to criticism the latter made about the theses supported by Brown in an earlier book titled Mathematics Education and
Although this work is presented on the back cover as being intended for an audience composed of researchers in mathematics education, the main themes addressed, the angle of approach of the subject, the emancipatory perspective adopted and support on the writings of major figures associated with poststructuralism and postmodern philosophy (e.g., Alain Badiou, Judith Butler, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Slavoj Žižek) make it more likely to capture the interest of a more specific audience of social constructivist theorists with a strong interest in mathematics education research and teacher education.


Frederic Morneau-Guerin is a professor in the Department of Education at Universite TELUQ. He holds a Ph.D. in abstract harmonic analysis.