Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Terms of Use

© 2021 Gene T. Witkowski. All rights reserved. This work is freely available courtesy of the author. It may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Educational Studies Department, Mathematics & Statistics Department

First Advisor

Joseph Derrick Nelson


Challenging the dominant narrative of meritocracy, objectivity and moral/ideological neutrality embraced by many mathematicians, this thesis critically interrogates the form and function of mathematical language within academic and professional mathematical spaces. Grounded in my own experience as a s tudent within the discipline and the frameworks of various scholars within the subdiscipline of literacy education, I offer an understanding of the language of these spaces as a veritable form of literacy implicated in a flexible sociocultural context and dependent on one’s access to forms of capital. I submit that this language serves various functions including, but not limited to: the paternalistic and elitist conflation of mathematical ability with the ability to deploy mathematical terminology; the regulation, marginalization, and/or exclusion of aspiring mathematicians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; and the encoding of implicit bias masked behind discussions of standardization and appropriateness. A fter exploring the implications and consequences of the uncritical reliance on this language, I conclude with a series o f potential action steps that may be taken by educators in the pursuit of a discipline that works for the good of all mathematicians, rather than a select few.