Making the able body: school mathematics as a cultural practice

Yolcu A. , Popkewitz T. S.

ZDM-MATHEMATICS EDUCATION, vol.51, no.2, pp.251-261, 2019 (Journal Indexed in SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 51 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s11858-018-1003-8
  • Page Numbers: pp.251-261
  • Keywords: Body, Equity/inequities, Mathematics for all, Historical analysis, Educational reforms


In this paper, we examine historically the onto-epistemological framework of mathematics education that generates cultural theses about modes of life. We pursue the idea of able bodies to think about schooling as producing kinds of people as well as their differences and divisions despite efforts for inclusion. Two historical moments in United States mathematics education are examined: pre-post WWII and contemporary reforms. We explore each moment as a set of cultural practices about who the child is and should be, and argue that making the body able embodies normalizing, and pathologizing qualities of being and acting. These practices change over time as we illustrate in these two historical moments. Shifting pedagogical practices reconfigure but never fully stabilize the desire to achieve a mathematically capable society through making up able bodies as inscriptions of the curriculum. Continual depiction of mathematical bodies on a differentially abled continuum in the so-called 'unity' of all children makes visible how inclusive curriculum practices in mathematics education simultaneously create unlivable lives that are seen and re-formed.