The power of place: spatializing critical mathematics education

Laurie H. Rubel, Cynthia Nicol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Place-based education has traditionally had a limited focus on mathematics, and critical mathematics education often lacks explicit attention to place and space. We explore integrating theories of place, spatial justice, and critical mathematics education. To begin, we consider various frameworks of place—including Indigenous, urban, and critical perspectives—to situate a discussion on how place acts as a shaping force on social relations like race, gender, and sexuality, and, conversely, how social relations shape place. We include mathematics as a category of social relations in that guiding framework. We next summarize and build on various notions of place and spatial justice, toward their integration with critical mathematics education. In so doing, we present teaching mathematics for spatial justice, or using mathematics 1) to identify power relations in and through place and 2) to transform the world by re-imagining and remaking place. We sidestep a false urban-rural divide and instead, illustrate the potential of teaching mathematics for spatial justice using rich examples organized around four thematic categories: geographies of opportunity, mapping, human mobility, and land relations and obligations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-194
Number of pages22
JournalMathematical Thinking and Learning
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2 Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Indigenous perspectives
  • Social justice
  • critical geography
  • critical mathematics education
  • spatial justice
  • teaching mathematics for spatial justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics (all)
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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