The spirit of mathematical modelling – a philosophical study on the occasion of 50 years of mathematical modeling education
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionFrejd, P. & Vos, P. (2023). The spirit of mathematical modeling – a philosophical study on the occasion of 50 years of mathematical modeling education. The Mathematics Enthusiast, 21(1-2), 269-300. https://doi.org/10.54870/1551-3440.1626
We mark the 50th anniversary of mathematical modeling education by reviving the term the spirit of mathematical modeling (SoMM), which idealistically reflects core aspects of mathematical modeling. The basis of our analysis is the notion of bildung, which is an educational philosophy that strives for harmonizing heart, mind, social life and culture. We built SoMM on five descriptions of mathematical modeling: two research studies from the 1970s, two studies about the work of professional modelers, and one about an environmental school project. We captured SoMM as a collection of aspects at the micro, meso and macro level: at the micro level, we found aspects such as agency, anticipating, scrutiny and critique as part of SoMM; at the meso level, we found collaborating, consulting and navigating social norms; and at the macro level, interdisciplinarity, relevance and social justice. Through the lens of bildung-based educational philosophies, we see that instruction and assessment traditions have transposed mathematical modeling into ‘teachable’ practices that drift away from SoMM. We recommend focusing more on fostering mathematical modeling and to assess students through alternative formats (e.g., group projects).