Mathematics and crises

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2021-01-01

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One can identify at least three different types of relationships between mathematics and crises. First, mathematics can picture a crisis. This is in accordance with the classic interpretation of mathematical modelling, which highlights that a mathematical model provides a representation of a piece of reality, a reality that could be a critical situation such as, for instance, a pandemic. Second, mathematics can constitute a crisis, meaning that mathematics can form an intrinsic part of the very dynamics of a crisis. This phenomenon can be illustrated by the economic crises that spread around the world in 2008. Third, mathematics can format a crisis. This final formulation refers to a situation where a mathematical reading of a crisis brings about ways of acting in the critical situation that might be adequate, but also counterproductive, if not catastrophic. This is illustrated with reference to the potential crises due to climate changes. As a conclusion, the paper addresses the politics of crises, which refers to the power that can be acted out through a crisis discourse in which mathematics may come to play a deplorable role.

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Educational Studies in Mathematics.

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