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Learning and Teaching Real World Problem Solving in School Mathematics

Murad Jurdak
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Charles Ashbacher
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This book is about the fringes of mathematical education, where it reaches into social movements, class struggle, and the hard psychological theory of education. The social/economic ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are mentioned several times.

The best short description of the tone of the book is found in the opening blurb of chapter two, which has the title, “School, Society and Culture.”

PA [Pedagogical Action] is, objectively, symbolic violence first insofar as the power relations between the groups or classes making up a social formation are the basis of the arbitrary power which is the establishment of a relation of pedagogic communication.

I doubt that I am the only one who is astounded to be told that when I am explaining the quadratic formula I am engaging in an act of symbolic violence against the students. Rather than being an academic statement, this sounds like the frustrations of an algebra student that is struggling to grasp the steps used to solve an equation.

The theory of learning behind the book is academically heavy and high-level and never truly separated from movements for social change. It is presented in the form of crossing the boundary between school mathematics and real world problem solving, but is often difficult to read. If you consider mathematics education as another tool for aggressive social change, then this is a book that will interest you. However, if you believe that knowing mathematics will improve your position in society as well as the culture itself, then you will find it of little to no interest. 

Charles Ashbacher splits his time between consulting with industry in projects involving math and computers, and teaching college classes. In his spare time, he reads about these things and helps his daughter in her lawn care business.

See the table of contents in the publisher's webpage.