Math habitus, the structuring of mathematical classroom practices, and possibilities for transformation

Childhood and Philosophy 8 (16):421-441 (2012)

In this paper, I discuss the social philosopher Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, and use it to locate and examine dispositions in a larger constellation of related concepts, exploring their dynamic relationship within the social context, and their construction, manifestation, and function in relation to classroom mathematics practices. I describe the main characteristics of habitus that account for its invisible effects: its embodiment, its deep and pre-reflective internalization as schemata, orientation, and taste that are learned and yet unthought, and are subsumed by our practices, which we understand as something that “goes without saying.” I also propose that, similarly to Bourdieu’s concept of linguistic habitus, a math habitus is made up of a complex intertwining of collective and individual histories that turn into “nature,” which structure all individual and collective action and inform mathematical classroom practice. I suggest that individual math dispositions may be liable to reconstruction through the reconstruction of the collective math habitus, which follows from opening spaces for dialogue, problematization and reconstruction of the unthought categories of the doxa. This requires that students acquire new concrete and symbolic means with which to challenge their current sense of mathematics as a discipline, and mathematical practice tout court. Finally, I argue that community of inquiry, employed as a pedagogical model, provides an avenue for both: for opening those spaces for reflective dialogical inquiry into concepts and questions whose meanings and references have so far been taken for granted, and for acquiring critical thinking and dialogical skills and dispositions that are a necessary means for participating in such reflective inquiry that offers significant promise for reconstructing individual and collective habitus in school settings
Keywords habitus, mathematical habitus, mathematical practice, dispositions, community of inquiry
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