How to teach mathematics – Part I

Teaching the Tough Stuff

Mathematics can be pretty hard and this has to affect the way that we teach it. Contemporary maths teaching splits along two main lines; explicit teaching and constructivist teaching. These approaches attempt to deal with the cognitive demands in different ways. Before we can develop a model for effective explicit maths teaching – the model that I wish to promote – it is necessary to explain my scepticism about constructivist methods.

Constructivist mathematics teaching is popular with researchers and in schools of education. It received a significant boost by the publication in 1989 of the first set of NCTM standards in the US1 which took a broadly constructivist line and helped spark the ‘Math Wars’ which are still raging today. It is hard to tell just how far constructivism is a philosophy as opposed to an approach based upon scientific psychology. It has been argued2 that it is…

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