Theoretical Perspectives on Interdisciplinary Mathematics Education

Julian Williams, Wolff-michael Roth

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In this chapter, we develop in broad strokes the concept and history of the ‘disciplines’, a prerequisite for understanding disciplinary and interdisciplinary activity, since activity is always mediated by the cultural artefacts history leaves us. We develop the social and cultural theories of activity, practice, and discourse to offer further insights into both academic and professional ‘disciplines’, and their interre- lationships, both in the academy, and in practical, joint, ‘interdisciplinary’ activity in everyday, workplace and professional life. The aim is to provide the foundations of a comprehensive theory for researchers of interdisciplinary activity. We build the anal- ysis first of all on classical activity theory and modern developments in this tradition (a) of Vygotsky’s group and their Western interpreters, and (b) of those inspired by Bakhtin who have particularly developed multivoicedness and hybridity in dialogism. We additionally draw on Bourdieu and Foucault to consider the nature of the power structures in the disciplinary fields and discourses respectively, and how they might be resisted. We argue for a new conceptualisation of meta-disciplinary mathematics education that is a requirement of a critical mathematics education, concluding that meta-knowledge of disciplinarity is necessary for negating and becoming, to some extent, free from the discipline. We reflect on the adequacy of this theoretical battery, and its proposed synthesis for researchers in the field.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterdisciplinary Mathematics Education
Subtitle of host publicationThe State of the Art and Beyond
EditorsBrian Doig, Julian Williams, David Swanson, Pat Drake, Rita Borromeo Ferri
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-11066-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-11065-9
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2019

Publication series

ISSN (Print)0724-6145
ISSN (Electronic)1616-8542


  • Interdisciplinary · Mathematics · Theory · CHAT · Bakhtin · Bourdieu · Foucault


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