Publication 5914

Cobb P. (2007) Putting philosophy to work. In: Lester F. K. (ed.) Second handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning. Information Age Publishing, Charlotte NC: 3–38.
Excerpt: In inviting me to write this chapter on philosophical issues in mathematics education, the editor has given me the leeway to present a personal perspective rather than to develop a comprehensive overview of currently influential philosophical positions as they relate to mathematics education. I invoke this privilege by taking as my primary focus an issue that has been the subject of considerable debate in both mathematics education and the broader educational research community, that of coping with multiple and frequently conflicting theoretical perspectives. The theoretical perspectives currently on offer include radical constructivism, sociocultural theory, symbolic interactionism, distributed cognition, information-processing psychology, situated cognition, critical theory, critical race theory, and discourse theory. To add to the mix, experimental psychology has emerged with a renewed vigor in the last few years. Proponents of various perspectives frequently advocate their viewpoint with what can only be described as ideological fervor, generating more heat than light in the process. In the face of this sometimes bewildering array of theoretical alternatives, the issue I seek to address in this chapter is that of how we might make and justify our decision to adopt one theoretical perspective rather than another. In doing so, I put philosophy to work by drawing on the analyses of a number of thinkers who have grappled with the thorny problem of making reasoned decisions about competing theoretical perspectives.
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