I have been reflecting, as I take on the daunting task of editing FLM, on the nature of mathematics education journals. Paul Ernest reflected similarly in a short communication he wrote in 5(3).
Lately, I have found some very reflective and thought-provoking papers in three mathematics education journals: this one, Mathematics Teaching, and Educational Studies in Mathematics. Mathematics Teaching has a flavour of classroom honesty and enthusiasm, Educational Studies has a scholarly feel in its reflections (as well as a narrower, more technical tradition), and this journal has its own flavour and expertise. I am not putting the other journals in our field down (or am I?). They may inform me (when I read them), but lately they have not given me (to use a cliche sincerely) pause for thought. (p. 22)
The journals that gave Paul "pause for thought" seem to me to be journals that (at that time at least) had personality. Educational Studies in Mathematics was first Freudenthal's journal and then Alan Bishop's. Their personalities are reflected in the articles published in its first 20 volumes. Mathematics Teaching encourages "contributors to express their personal views on the teaching and learning of mathematics." And FLM was and is David Wheeler's journal. In its first fifty issues he defined its focus as raising the level of discussion of crucial issues and encouraging reflection, and subsequent editors have maintained this focus.
Richard Barwell wrote in 31(2) that since the early days of FLM, "the domain of research known as 'mathematics education' has changed considerably. There are more researchers, more publications and more topics than ever before. Do we know more as a result? Or are we simply making more noise?" (p. 2). There are now many more mathematics education journals around, but how many give us pause for thought? How many have personalities? The answer, I think, is too few. We have many more journals that publish standard research reports, what might be called 'institutional' journals with automated review procedures and criteria. Most journals are now edited by committees, or by editors who have chosen to measure 'impact' in ways other than by provoking the thoughts of their readers. I know of only a few journals with personality. Perhaps that is simply my own ignorance. Perhaps others are published in languages I do not read, or in places I do not frequent. If anyone knows of other thought provoking journals in our field, let me know.
Paul Ernest also noted that many of the contributors to the first five volumes of FLM were editors or past editors of other journals, and mused "Perhaps just as you can have a painter's painter, you can have an editor's journal" (p. 22). It may be true that those who have had the experience of editing other journals recognise the marks of the handcrafting that goes into FLM more than others, but I think that more than an editor's journal, FLM is a reader's journal. Ironically, this comes about because of a decision David Wheeler made at the beginning to trust those who write for the journal: "I am torn between responsibility to the readers and responsibility to the writer; my inclination is to hope that the author knows best, better than me or my advisors, what he or she wants to say." (4(2), p. 24). Anyone who has submitted writing to FLM knows this does not mean that authors are given carte blanche. Often what the author wants to say is better said in another forum, or in a different format, and we are not reluctant to say so. But at the same time an article that provokes reactions, even negative ones, at the level of content is likely to find its way into our pages, simply because having provoked thought on the part of reviewers it is likely to do so for a wider audience. Such a decision is harder to make and to justify at a more institutional journal.
I was lucky enough to meet David Wheeler in person a few times, but even more lucky to meet him through the collection of books and back issues of FLM he left behind when he retired from Concordia University. They were housed in the storage room that became my office there. I read much more than I understood in those years, including most of what had been printed in FLM. This encounter with David Wheeler's literary artefacts was an important part of whom I became as a mathematics educator and hence what mathematics education became for me. Now that I am a bit older, and understand more of what I read, I am joyful and anxious to be becoming the Editor of FLM.
This editorial is available not only as a traditional ink-on-paper-you-can-read-it-in-the-bath format, but also electronically. Another of David Wheeler's aims for FLM was that it should be read as widely as possible. The Board of Directors of FLM Publishing has been exploring ways to use new media to accomplish this, and this is the first of what will be a series of offerings published in multiple formats. If readers have any comments, we would love to hear, read or view them. (Contact one of the FLM Board of Directors or email comments to David Wagner at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
As well as providing more ways in which FLM can be read, I am also keen to draw articles from a more diverse pool of authors. Some challenges related to this aim are discussed among the short communications in this issue. If you know of authors who have thought provoking ideas, please recommend FLM to them.