Nations and Numbers: Elementary Mathematics Education as a Nationalizing Tool

Lukas Boser


One of the central elements of the nation-building process in the 19th century was
the attempt to homogenize the citizenry, i.e. to fabricate national citizens. Besides
the military and church, schools were considered to be the main agencies capable of
achieving this national homogenization. In this paper, focusing on the education in
Switzerland and France, I argue that elementary mathematics education was also
used for this particular purpose. I make the case that throughout the 19th century
mathematics education became a way to familiarize the people with a standardized
language – a language that was supposed to help them master their specific social,
cultural and political realities.
Key words: mathematics education; nation building; Standard Language Ideology;
state formation.

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