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Topic: What is mathematics?
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Howard L. Hansen

Posts: 48
Registered: 12/6/04
What is mathematics?
Posted: Jun 23, 1995 3:20 PM
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I love reading this list! I don't agree totally with Gary Martin that the
debate he cites is meaningless. I believe what we are "hearing" on this list
represents one of the core issues in math education reform and
implementation of the Standards. To me, the debate on technology, skills,
etc. all gets back to one's belief about what knowing and doing mathematics
is. I really like the way MSEB sort of sums it up in "Reshaping School
Mathematics: A Philosophy and Framework for Curriculum." On one hand we
have those who believe essentially that:

"Mathematics is a fixed and unchanging body of facts and procedures; and
To do mathematics is to calculate answers to set problems using a specific
catalogue of rehearsed techniques."

To a large extent I think DanH and Harvey Becker's contributions to the list
often represent this belief. (I'm not picking on them, they are just great

Others believe (including the Standards working groups) that:

"Mathematics is a science and language of patterns;
To know mathematics is to investigate and express relationships among patterns;
Doing mathematics means gathering, discovering, creating, and expressing
facts and ideas about patterns; and
Mathematics is a creative, active process very different from passive
mastery of concepts and procedures."

I do agree with Gary Martin that it's time to choose and get on with it.

Western Illinois University

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