The Road To Mathematics Has Not Been Chosen By Education

Sunil Singh
3 min readJun 15, 2024


Mathematics Road, University of British Columbia

Pair staring at the picture above with the one below from the absolutely breathtaking campus of UBC.

Mathematics, for me, is just as tranquil, meditative, idyllic, romantic, and beautiful as those pictures. Pretty sure there was some dissonance in many of those words as you read them.

For current mathematics education — and its even bleaker future — all those words are dissonant, and completely out of step with the corporate and political model that has been industriously constructed.

My first workshops in mathematics education, over 20 years ago, had this title: Perspiration or Inspiration: Which Mathematical Road Are We On?

It turns math education has only been on the road of toil, sweat, and celebrated efficiency for the entire time.

I have always felt queasy and uncomfortable even stepping on that road, especially when math educators are conflating current pedagogical trends as doing mathematics.

What is on your whiteboard? It should be just as interesting and captivating if it was written on a beer-soaked napkin at a bar.

The consideration for the quality of content should be considered first. It once was, it’s not anymore.

It’s all pedagogy. It’s all edu-celebrity. It’s all a show now, parading out anything but mathematics. Just go through any social media feed, and see who is posting anything that has to do with sharing the dissonant words I ascribed above to mathematics.

The biggest victim, in terms of things that are critical to a lifelong interest and understanding of mathematics, is the idea of curiosity.

Curiosity is the important precursor to any organic and lasting learning. In mathematics, a subject riddled with much anxiety and trauma, it is even more so.

That word is, unsurprisingly, extinct. The “c” words replacing it are compliance and competition. Strange, because students worldwide are finally fed up with this toxic environment of learning — constant testing.

But, math education — intentionally — lives in its own bubble. It rarely tempers its offering with the larger trends in education. It’s hitching its wagon to ideas that centre whiteness and conservatism, covering it all up by ensuring that conferences have BIPOC keynote speakers — who, through historic academic segregation, are invariably relegated to talk about equity issues primarily.

Equity died just recently when NCTM put out a position paper on Culturally Responsive Mathematics and couldn’t collectively muster even a token use of the word history in the entire paper based on “culture”…

The current system cannot be saved — and it shouldn’t. It’s only benefitting those who don’t need benefitting — companies, organizations, and edu-celebrities of varying tiers.

It’s a corporate model to fit the corporate model of society — which ironically goes unchecked for how exhausting and unfulfilling it is becoming. It’s obsolescence might not be on the horizon — yet — but its deleterious effects on the mental health of students are in full throttle.

In irony that not even Shakespeare could have penned, simple attention to the awe, joy, wonder, magic, and beauty of mathematics could have thwarted this path.

But mathematics education didn’t take that path…

…and that has made all the difference.