Math and Anti-math: Numbers, Society and Education
Houman Harouni

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Harvard University

Primary Discipline

Mathematics Education
What is the purpose of mathematics education, how has it been formed, and how does it impact the content and shape of curriculum? How do we decide what is relevant and for whom? On the one hand, the conceit of schooling is that mathematics is a subject necessary for labor and citizenship, and on the other hand the complaints regarding the lack of connections between school mathematics and practical life have become proverbial. This research project begins with the thesis that the seemingly intractable problems of mathematics education cannot be sufficiently addressed until we can clearly explain the purpose of the curriculum and how this purpose shapes the experience of teachers and students. This purpose, in turn, must be understood historically, as a process that spans the history of education and involves issues of class, labor, culture and gender. The study begins with historical research, expands its implications to address issues of curriculum design and controversy that have characterized reform efforts, and, last but not least, grounds these findings by examining their impact on practice.
About Houman Harouni
Houman Harouni is Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His work unites a wide range of methods and interests, including pedagogy, sociology, philosophy, critical theory, history, and political economy, by exposing them to a wider concern: the potential of education for maintaining or changing social relations. His most recent work proposes and puts into practice a new critical theory of mathematics education that traces the relationships between mathematics, labor, culture, and politics. Harouni’s academic articles have appeared in the Harvard Educational Review, Berkeley Review of Education, For the Learning of Mathematics and Teaching and Curriculum Dialogue, among others. He is a former Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Presidential Fellow of Harvard University and recipient of the American Association of Teaching and Curriculum’s Francis Hunkins Distinguished Article Award. As a cultural critic and author, he is a contributor to The Guardian, PBS Frontline and The American Reader, as well as other popular publications. He is a former elementary and high school teacher and runs intensive teacher and leadership training workshops in various countries and contexts.

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