Culture, Communication, and Mathematics Learning: An Introduction

By Pourdavood, Roland; Svec, Lawrence V. et al. | Focus on Learning Problems in Mathematics, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Culture, Communication, and Mathematics Learning: An Introduction


Pourdavood, Roland, Svec, Lawrence V., Cowen, Lynn M., Genovese, Jeremy, Focus on Learning Problems in Mathematics


History is replete with politically and ideologically motivated resistance to change in teaching mathematics. In 415 AD, St. Cyril, Christian Patriarch of Alexandria ordered the assassination of the Greco-Egyptian mathematician Hypatia. She was taken by a Christian mob, dragged into a church, stripped of her clothes and hacked to death with sharpened oyster shells (Osborne, 1992; Gibbon, 1975). It appears that her crime was teaching about the roundness of the earth at a time when Christian leaders wanted to revive the notion of a flat earth centered in a tabernacle shaped universe (Alic, 1998).

In 1299, the city of Florence banned the use of Hindu-Arabic numerals. It was thought that the new system facilitated dishonest dealings because it was easy to modify a zero to a nine or a six. It was also thought that the place value system allowed deceitful merchants to inflate values by adding a new number to the end of a row (Flegg, 1989). During the late Middle Ages many Europeans rejected the very notion of a zero, regarding it as a creation of Satan (Menninger, 1969).

We can also find more recent examples of resistance to changes in mathematics education. In Colonial America, reading and writing were seen as the chief purposes of education, and mathematics was often not part of the school curriculum. In 1900 parents in New York City complained "that their children were using methods that were different from those they themselves employed." (Kilpatrick, 1992, p. 17)

The mathematical knowledge needed by any particular culture is not static. If we assume that mathematics and mathematics education that met the needs of our parents are appropriate for the new century, we are deeply mistaken. As Steen (1990) states:

    To develop effective new mathematics curricula, one must attempt to
    foresee the mathematical needs of tomorrow's students. It is the
    present and future practice of mathematics-at work, in science, in
    research-that should shape education in mathematics. To prepare
    effective mathematics curricular for the future, we must look for
    patterns in the mathematics of today to project, as best we can,
    just what is and what is not truly fundamental. (p. 2-3)

Many Americans are convinced that they can never learn mathematics. This persuasive attitude is an example of what psychologists call learned helplessness. McLeod & Ortega (1993) define learned helplessness in the mathematics education context as "a pattern of behavior whereby students attribute failure to lack of ability" (p. 28). These authors contrast learned helplessness with mastery orientation. In mastery orientation students have confidence in their ability to solve challenging problems. Learned helplessness is negatively related with persistence, while mastery orientation is positively connected with persistence.

McLeod & Ortega (1993) found a student's self-concept could be modified by social context. They describe how classroom conversation, such as a teacher's characterization of a problem as "easy" can profoundly demoralize students. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM] Assessment Standards for School Mathematics (1995) defines mathematical disposition as "interest in, and appreciation for, mathematics; a tendency to think and act in positive ways; includes confidence, curiosity, perseverance, flexibility, inventiveness, and reflectivity in doing mathematics (p. 88). The critics of the Standards dismiss this notion of disposition as nonsense and advocate a back-to-basics approach. In the words of Jennings (1996), "get a math book, make students practice problems, have them do simple addition, subtraction, and multiplication in their heads, give them standardized tests, and drop the group work." This back-to-basics orientation seems more rooted in nostalgia than actual research. McLeod and Ortega (1993) give us reason to hope that if we address the affective components of mathematics education, as suggested in the NCTM Standards, we can improve students' achievements. …

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
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • 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.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
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.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Culture, Communication, and Mathematics Learning: An Introduction
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
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?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    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.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    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.