Conference report: European perspectives in the use of history in mathematics education

In July 4th-6th, 2011 a Workshop was held in Nantes dealing with the developments of research in the field of the use of history in mathematics education, with particular reference to Europe. The participants were: Evelyne Barbin (France, president of HPM), Fulvia Furinghetti (Italy, past president of HPM, Tinne Hoff Kjeldsen (Denmark), Solène Mainterot (France), Maria Rosa Massa-Esteve (Spain), Guillaume Moussard (France), François Pineau (France), Leo Rogers (UK), Daina Taimina (Latvia-USA), Costas Tzanakis (Greece).

In some countries of Europe there is a solid tradition in the use of history in mathematics education. I just quote two significant cases. In France the net of IREMs (Instituts de Recherche sur l’Enseignement des Mathématiques) has fostered the production of good materials in the field (reprints of original sources, reports of activities in the classroom, teaching sequences) and the formation of a group of teachers with a remarkable expertise in history and its integration in their mathematics teaching. In UK the conferences HIMED (History In Mathematics Education) has gathered researchers and teachers to share their experience in the use of history and afterwards Prince’ Teaching Institute har been organising a day for teachers every two years. The creation of the European Summer Universities (ESU) in 1993 (the first was in Montpellier, France) has added a clear international character to the tradition in the use of history in mathematics education and has fostered the birth of a net of competences involving teachers, researchers in education, and historians. The proceedings are a landmark of the evolution of the approach to this use. The great power of the ESUs is the teachers’ participation to the activities, which means to keep always the contact with teaching practice and to have a first hand feedback of the proposals put forwards by the researchers. The national and international financial restrictions sometimes make difficult the participation to ESUs for teachers (and for researchers), even if in many European countries the curricula encourage the introduction of the historical dimension in mathematics and science teaching.

According to the last decisions of the Program Committee, in the future the ESUs will take place between the two Satellite meetings of ICME. In the meeting of Nantes Maria Rosa Massa-Esteve (Centre de Recerca per a la Història de la Tècnica Matemàtica Aplicada I, ETSEIB, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain) illustrated the progress in the preparation of ESU-7 to be held in Barcelona (possibly July 2014). This date avoids overlapping both with the Satellite meeting and with the conferences in the History of Mathematics Education that take place in the odd years.

As for the next ESU the situation is very promising: Barcelona is a beautiful town both from the historical and architectural point of view, an active group of researchers in the field linked to ESU is working in the University, a well known journal in the history of science and technology (Actes d’Història de la Ciència i de la Tècnica) is edited by members of this group. At the Nantes’ meeting we have realized that the Local Programme Committee is enthusiastically working on preparing the next ESU, and we expect it to be a great event.

Fulvia Furinghetti. Dipartimento di Matematica dell’Università di Genova

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