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This essay reviews the principles motivating contemporary critical mathematics discourses. Drawing from varied critical discourses including ethnomathematics, critical theory, post-structural theory, and situated and ecological cognition, the essay examines the pragmatics of critiques to the privileged role of school mathematics in the era of globalization. Critiques of modern school curricula argue that globalization practices linking education to technological and economic development are increasing, and the curriculum is being redefined through discourses of privatization, national standards, and global competitiveness. Globalization has reinforced the utilitarian approach to school mathematics and the Western bias in the prevailing mathematics curricula, as well as helped to globalize pervasive mathematical ideologies. In most instances, a newfound status that mathematics is enjoying in this era of globalization is not well deserved, as school mathematics can no longer be considered culturally, socially, politically, nor economically neutral. In particular, school mathematics is increasingly critiqued as a cultural homogenizing force, a critical filter for status, a perpetuator of mistaken illusions of certainty, and an instrument of power. With such concerns it is becoming more evident that mathematics learning and education have implications for building just and democratic societies. As an African female scholar who is now living in Canada, I reflect on what the critical stance might mean for contexts with which I am familiar. I discuss the challenges of school mathematics with a view to improving curriculum and pedagogy so as to raise the awareness of teachers and learners to the questionable assumptions from which mathematics derives its prestige. The mathematics curriculum is central to cultivating values as well as fostering the conscientization of learners.

Citation of this paper:

Namukasa, I. (2004). School mathematics in the era of globalization. Interchange, 35(2), 209-227. Available at

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