Making history with mathematics education

Michael Barany

11:40-12:50, Thursday 30 June

Plenary description

Across history, mathematics has responded and contributed to changes in technology, politics, culture, and society. This keynote will introduce a historical perspective on mathematics education, starting from the earliest surviving records of organised human societies. Michael will consider changing technologies from the abacus to the blackboard to the digital computer, changing methods from long division to set theory, and changing contexts from empire to nation-building to globalisation. Together they reframe what mathematics education has meant in the past and help us imagine what it might be in the future. Paying special attention to how mathematics education relates to who people are and what roles they play in society, Michael will explore how the history of mathematics education can be a means of challenging and rethinking the purpose and methods of mathematics teaching and learning.

About the speaker

Michael Barany is a historian of science and mathematics at the University of Edinburgh and an inaugural History in Mathematics Education Lecturer of the British Society for the History of Mathematics. He believes history of mathematics, like mathematics itself, is best when engaged with today’s society and culture and when committed to addressing challenges of sexism, racism, and social injustice. His writing, including regular selections for the Best Writing on Mathematics anthology, is available at, and you can find him on Twitter at @MBarany and @MathHistFacts