Calling a spade a spade: Mathematics in the new pattern of division of labour

Alexandre Borovik:

The growing disconnection of the majority of the population from mathematics is increasingly difficult to ignore.

This paper focuses on the socio-economic roots of this cultural and social phe- nomenon which are not usually mentioned in public debates. I concentrate on math- ematics education, as an important and well documented area of interaction of math- ematics with the rest of human culture.

New patterns of division of labour have dramatically changed the nature and role of mathematical skills needed for the labour force and correspondingly changed the place of mathematics in popular culture and in mainstream education. The forces that drive these changes come from the tension between the ever deepening special- isation of labour and ever increasing length of specialised learning required for jobs at the increasingly sharp cutting edge of technology.