Friday, February 2 2018
15:30 - 16:30

Alladi Ramakrishnan Hall

Supporting teachers in helping students make sense of mathematics

K. Subramaniam


School students commonly experience mathematics as a collection of problems and a disconnected set of rules and procedures to solve them. The principles and structures that organize these elements are under-emphasized in teaching, which results in the failure to see the connections between them. By “making sense of mathematics”, I refer to the process of learning the connections between problems, rules and procedures. These connections have to be learned on the fly, as students use their existing knowledge, which is nearly always partial, to tackle new problems and to absorb new ways of solving them. “Making sense” is thus a process of construction, of fitting together pieces of existing knowledge and new ideas, whose evolution does not mirror the canonical, “deductive” organization of mathematical knowledge. One of the tasks of mathematics education research is to uncover concepts that are helpful to teachers in supporting students’ sense making. These concepts are often forged by drawing on diverse disciplines such as cognitive science, philosophy and mathematics. In my talk, I will discuss examples of such concepts, connecting them with student and teacher talk in the classroom and in professional development workshops.

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