Theories of Mathematical Learning

By Leslie P. Steffe; Pearla Nesher et al. | Go to book overview

6
Social Interaction and Individual Cognition

Erna Yackel Purdue University Calumet

The contrasting starting points for the chapters by Voigt and by Saxe and Bermudez (chapters 2 and 3, this volume) indicate the breadth of investigations in mathematics education that fall within sociological and anthropological perspectives. On the one hand, Voigt gives a detailed theoretical development of social interaction and mathematics learning based on analyses of classroom practice. On the other hand, Saxe and Bermudez provide an extensive study of children's mathematical activity in a street selling setting ( Saxe, 1991). The latter chapter illustrates how an analytic framework developed in an out-of-school setting is useful for making sense of children's mathematical activity while engaged in a school-type task. Despite their different starting points, the authors of both chapters attempt to coordinate the perspectives of social interaction and individual cognition.


REACTION TO VOIGT'S CHAPTER

Voigt's chapter exemplifies the importance of careful attention to theoretical underpinnings. He sets out to accomplish three main purposes. First, he argues for the need to consider cultural and social dimensions of learning; second, he outlines various theoretical positions regarding mathematics learning in cultural context; and third, he explains the potential of social interactionism for coordinating a focus on the subject with a focus on culture. His selection of examples from classrooms in two different countries and from both traditional and reformed instructional practice indicates the potential of the developed theoretical constructs for clarifying contemporary issues in mathematics education. Two of

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