for the learning of mathematics

an international journal of mathematics education

Richard Barwell - Vol. 43 Num. 2 (2023)
 Wolf diminished: mathematics, education and biodiversity


Our planet is facing a biodiversity crisis and mathematics is involved. In this article, I focus on reports of a wolf hunt to examine different ways in which mathematics contributes to this crisis, shapes our understanding of the ecosystem and guides future actions. My examination contributes to understanding the ethical dimension of mathematics and, by extension, of mathematics education. In particular, I show how mathematical-administrative discourses diminish the lives and intrinsic worth of individual creatures, in this case, wolves, as metonyms for all the other species with which we share our planet. To do this, I offer three different perspectives on the life of wolves, the first drawn from poetry, the second from mathematical modelling and the third from the bureaucratic discourse of quotas. The article explores ways of bringing such perspectives into mathematics teaching so that mathematics does not diminish the wolf. When most learners of mathematics have never met a wolf, poetry, art, drama or fiction offer counterpoints to mathematical ways of knowing.