Is Democratic Mathematics Tracking Possible? Paul Ernest’s Differentiated Curriculum

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2011


This essay analyzes the issue of secondary school mathematics tracking in a democratic context. Paul Ernest, a philosopher of both mathematics and mathematics education, argues that democratic principles require a differentiated mathematics curriculum based on student choice and career goals. This would include one track for future mathematicians, and other tracks to accommodate other interests. For these other tracks, he recommends a core curriculum based on mathematics appreciation and critical social awareness, which he believes will empower students. I examine Ernest’s definition of democratic education and his curricular recommendations for non-mathematicians. I argue that his democratic aims for this curriculum are threatened by an inherent mathematical elitism and social power structures.