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Mathematics Classroom Experiences and Ahimsa: Love and Harm in the Mathematics Classroom

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  • At the core of Gandhi’s teachings is the practice of ahimsa, an active love, where one strives to do no harm in the world, through neither word, thought, nor deed. In educational practice, teachers would say that they strive to do what is ‘best’ for their students within their capabilities, yet stories of harm pervade the stories of mathematical educational experiences. In my research, I conducted a close reading of sixty grade nine student mathematical reflections on experiences, with Gandhi’s notion of ahimsa as a framework from which to consider themes of love and harm in relation to mathematics education. This was done in the hopes of better understanding how I as a teacher can continue to move towards a more loving pedagogy, while perhaps slowly helping to change the cultural narrative of mathematics education to a more positive story. This study concluded that there is evidence of potential harm to students, such as; being intensely focused on grades, having conflated being the ‘fastest’ and being the ‘best’, viewing learning math as memorizing many sets of steps, believing that they have learned a topic but merely ‘forget’ it on assessments, not feeling confident to ask questions, being acutely aware they are not learning at the current pacing, and being singled out. It also showed students benefiting from tying grades and speed to more than just end goals in and of themselves, setting goals with metacognitive awareness, and by feeling that their teacher both wants them to and works towards them succeeding.

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  • Type of Item
    Research Material
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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International