The Psychology of Learning Mathematics

The Psychology of Learning Mathematics

The Psychology of Learning Mathematics

The Psychology of Learning Mathematics


This classic text presents problems of learning and teaching mathematics from both a psychological and mathematical perspective. " The Psychology of Learning Mathematics, " already translated into six languages (including Chinese and Japanese), has been revised for this American Edition to include the author's most recent findings on the formation of mathematical concepts, different kinds of imagery, interpersonal and emotional factors, and a new model of intelligence. The author contends that progress in the areas of learning and teaching mathematics can only be made when such factors as the abstract and hierarchical nature of mathematics, the relation to mathematical symbolism and the distinction between intelligent learning and rote memorization are taken into account and instituted in the classroom.


A distinguished American mathematician, who is Past President of the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction and who has written and spoken extensively in recent years on the teaching of mathematics to young children, recently began an invited address to another international body (Whitney, 1985) as follows:

For several decades we have been seeing increasing failure in school mathematics education, in spite of intensive efforts in many directions to improve matters. It should be very clear that we are missing something fundamental about the schooling process. But we do not even seem to be sincerely interested in this; we push for 'excellence' without regard for causes of failure or side effects of interventions; we try to cure symptoms in place of finding the underlying disease, and we focus on the passing of tests instead of meaningful goals. (p. 123)

The situation is similar in the United Kingdom. Since the early 1960s, there have been intensive efforts to improve mathematical education in our schools, by intelligent, hard-working, and well-funded persons. Nevertheless, a research group based at London University recently reported that many children still understand some of the most important topics in mathematics no better after two or three years of secondary schooling than when they entered (Hart, 1981).

Not only do we fail to teach children mathematics, but we teach many of them to dislike it. Concern at the governmental level about the state of mathematical education in our schools led in 1978 to the formation of a committee of enquiry . . .

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