Understanding mathematics learning

Learning math is not as easy as 1, 2, 3, but is influenced by some quite surprising factors. Celia Hoyles explains more 

ALL STUDENTS LEARN MATHEMATICS in school, but what and how they actually learn is influenced in part by factors beyond the curriculum and even beyond the way in which lessons are delivered. Students may be taught procedures to support calculation, yet these can be learned without a real grasp of why they work as they do. Furthermore, progress in math can be subject to wider influences. For example, although students prefer to tackle math with a common-sense approach, they often forego this for an approach which they believe is more likely to gain approval. Teachers need to be aware of the fragility of students’ appreciation of mathematical argument, and encourage reasoning rather than “answer getting.”

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October 2009