The 2016 Janet Duffin Award is awarded to Julian Williams and Sophina Choudry for their article Mathematics capital in the educational field: Bourdieu and beyond, which appeared in Vol 18, Issue 1. The authors gave the Janet Duffin Award Lecture at the June 2017 BSRLM conference in Oxford, where they were presented with the award.
Mathematics education needs a better appreciation of the dominant power structures in the educational field: Bourdieu’s theory of capital provides a good starting point. We argue from Bourdieu’s perspective that school mathematics provides capital that is finely tuned to generationally reproduce the social structures that serve to keep the powerful in power, while ensuring that less powerful groups are led to accept their own failure in mathematics. Bourdieu’s perspective thereby highlights theoretical inadequacies in much mathematics education research, insofar as it presumes a consensus about a ‘what works agenda’ for improving achievement for all. Drawing on one case where we manufactured awkward facts, we illustrate a Bourdieusian interpretation of mathematics capital as reproductive, and the crucial role of its cultural arbitrary. We then criticise the Bourdieusian concept of ‘mathematical capital’ as the value of mathematical competence in practice and propose to extend his tools to include the contradictory ‘use’ and ‘exchange’ values of mathematics instead: we will show how this conceptualisation goes ‘beyond Bourdieu’ and helps explain how teaching-learning might (ideally) produce ‘cultural use value’ in mathematical competence, while still recognising the contradictions teachers and learners face. Finally, we suggest how critical education research generally can benefit from this theoretical framework: (1) in exposing the interest of the dominant classes; but also (2) in researching critical pedagogic alternatives that challenge orthodoxy in educational policy and practice both in mathematics education and more generally.
The Janet Duffin Fund administers a generous gift made to the British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics (BSRLM) by Bill Duffin, in memory of his wife Janet, a longstanding and active member of the Society. The Fund covers the costs of the Janet Duffin Award and Lecture. It is managed by the BSRLM Executive. The Janet Duffin Award is made annually by the Society to the author (or authors) of what is judged to be the most outstanding contribution – either research paper or essay review – published in the Society’s journal, Research in Mathematics Education [RME], during the preceding calendar year. All research papers or essay reviews published in RME during the calendar year in question are considered for the award.