Teacher Beliefs and the Reform Movement of Mathematics Education

By Battista, Michael T. | Phi Delta Kappan, February 1994 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Teacher Beliefs and the Reform Movement of Mathematics Education


Battista, Michael T., Phi Delta Kappan


Through extensive education programs and institutional reform, we must help teachers become comfortable with the new view of mathematics, Mr. Battista says -- because, once they fully understand and believe in the reform movement, teachers will lead the way in implementing it.

TEACHERS are key to the success of the current reform movement in U.S. mathematics education. However, many teachers have beliefs about mathematics that are incompatible with those underlying the reform effort. Because these beliefs play a critical role not only in what teachers teach but in how they teach it, this incompatibility blocks reform and prolongs the use of a mathematics curriculum that is seriously damaging the mathematical health of our children.

THE REFORM MOVEMENT

With its release of Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics in 1989, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) spawned a major reform movement in school mathematics. The movement calls for abandoning curricula that promote thinking about

mathematics as a rigid system of externally

dictated rules governed by standards

of accuracy, speed, and memory....

A mathematics curriculum that

emphasizes computation and rules is

like a writing curriculum that emphasizes

grammar and spelling; both put

the cart before the horse. There is no

place in a proper curriculum for mindless

mimicry mathematics.[1] Instead, proponents of reform envision classrooms in which students

have numerous and various interrelated

experiences which allow them to solve

complex problems; to read, write, and

discuss mathematics; to conjecture,

test, and build arguments about a conjecture's

validity; to value the mathematical

enterprise, the mathematical

habits of mind, and the role of mathematics

in human affairs; and to be encouraged

to explore, guess, and even

make errors so that they gain confidence

in their own actions.[2]

To appreciate the magnitude of such reform, it is important to recognize that fundamental change is being called for in two areas. The first is the content of school mathematics. Historically, computational skill has been considered the most important part of mathematics for the masses.[3] To be sure, mathematics educators of the past lamented the fact that students often did not understand concepts or why certain procedures worked. But there seemed to be universal agreement that computation was important. Computational topics drove the mathematics curriculum, especially in the elementary years.

However, the situation has changed dramatically over the last decade. Technological advances have all but eliminated the need for paper-and-pencil computational skill. As a result, a major thrust of the reform movement has been the effort to replace the current obsolete, mathematics-as-computation curriculum with a mathematics curriculum that genuinely embraces conceptual understanding, reasoning, and problem solving as the fundamental goals of instruction.

The second area in which fundamental change is being sought is in the way we view teaching and learning. When computation dominated the mathematics curriculum, the prevailing psychological view of mathematics learning was behaviorism, and attention was focused on observable behaviors, not on mathematical thinking. Education (generating understanding) and training (producing specific performance) were confused.[4] Views of school mathematics and school learning were thus mutually reinforcing: school mathematics was seen as a set of computational skills; mathematics learning was seen as progressing through carefully scripted schedules of skill acquisition.

But current research in learning has uncovered deficiencies in instructional approaches based on behaviorism.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Teacher Beliefs and the Reform Movement of Mathematics Education
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?