What is the place of social theory in mathematics education research, and what is it for? This special issue of Educational Studies in Mathematics offers insights on what could be the role of some sociological theories in a field that has historically privileged learning theories coming from psychology and mathematics as the main theoretical frames informing research. Although during the last 10 years the term “socio-cultural” has become part of the accepted and widespread trends of mathematics education research when addressing learning, this issue gathers a collection of papers that depart from a “socio-cultural” approach to learning and rather deploy sociological theories in the analysis of mathematics education practices. In this commentary paper, we will point to what we see to be the contributions of these papers to the field. We will do so by highlighting issues that run through the six papers. We will try to synthetize what we think are the benchmarks of the social approach to mathematics education that they propose. We will also take a critical stance and indicate some possible extensions of the use of social theory that are not addressed in this special issue but nonetheless are worth being explored for a fuller understanding of the “social” in mathematics education.
- Social theory