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Source: Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Mar., 1995), pp. 114-

145

Published by: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

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Journalfor Researchin MathematicsEducation

1995, Vol. 26, No. 2, 114-145

RECONSTRUCTINGMATHEMATICSPEDAGOGY

FROMA CONSTRUCTIVISTPERSPECTIVE

provideda basis for recentmathematicseducationreformefforts.Althoughconstructivismhas

the potentialto informchanges in mathematicsteaching,it offers no particularvision of how

mathematicsshouldbe taught;models of teachingbasedon constructivismareneeded.Dataare

presentedfrom a whole-class, constructivistteachingexperimentin which problemsof teach-

ing practicerequiredthe teacher/researcher to explorethe pedagogicalimplicationsof his the-

oretical(constructivist)perspectives.The analysisof the dataled to the developmentof a model

of teacherdecision makingwith respectto mathematicaltasks.Centralto this model is the cre-

ative tension between the teacher'sgoals with regardto studentlearningandhis responsibility

to be sensitive andresponsiveto the mathematicalthinkingof the students.

ical and theoreticalwork in mathematicseducation (Steffe & Gale, 1995; von

Glasersfeld,1991) andas a result,have contributedto shapingmathematicsreform

efforts(NationalCouncilof Teachersof Mathematics,1989, 1991). Althoughcon-

structivismhasprovidedmathematics educatorswithusefulways to understand learn-

ing andlearners,the taskof reconstructingmathematicspedagogyon the basis of a

constructivistview of learningis a considerablechallenge,one thatthe mathematics

educationcommunityhas only begunto tackle.Althoughconstructivismprovidesa

useful frameworkfor thinkingaboutmathematicslearningin classroomsandthere-

fore can contributein importantways to the effortto reformclassroommathematics

teaching,it does not tell us how to teachmathematics;thatis, it does not stipulatea

particularmodel.

The word "pedagogy,"as used above, is meantto signify all contributionsto the

mathematicaleducationof studentsin mathematicsclassrooms.As such,it includes

not only the multi-facetedworkof the teacherbutalso the contributions to classroom

learning of curriculum designers, educationalmaterials developers, and educa-

tionalresearchers.Mathematicspedagogymightbe operationallydefinedusing the

followingthoughtexperiment.Picture25 learnersin an otherwiseemptyclassroom.

Grant No. TPE-9050032. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations

expressedin this materialarethose of the authorand do not necessarilyreflect the views of

the National Science Foundation.

The authorwishes to acknowledgethe helpful commentson early draftsof this paperof

DeborahBall, HildaBorko,PaulCobb,Steve Lehrman,DeborahSchifter,VirginiaStimpson,

ErnstVon Glasersfeld,TerryWood,andErnaYackel,as well as the contributionsto this work

of the CEM Projectteam of Glen Blume, Sonja Brobeck,Billie Mazza, Betsy McNeal, and

JamieMyers.

MartinA. Simon 115

This paperdescribes data from a classroom teaching experimentin which the

researcherserved as mathematicsteacher,the analysis of thatdata,and an emerg-

ing theoreticalframeworkfor mathematicspedagogy thatderivesfrom the analy-

sis. The papercontributesto a dialogue on what teaching might be like if it were

built on a constructivistview of knowledgedevelopment.The specific focus of this

paperis on decisionmakingwithrespectto the mathematics contentandmathematical

tasks for classroom learning.

This articlebeginswith an articulationof the constructivistperspectivethatunder-

girds the researchandteachingandthen providesa review of the pedagogicalthe-

ory developmentbased on constructivismthatprecededthis studyand contributed

to its theoreticalfoundation.The studyreportedhereexaminesthe pedagogicaldeci-

sions thatresultfrom the accommodationof the researcher'stheoreticalperspec-

tives to the problemsof teaching.

A CONSTRUCTIVISTPERSPECTIVE

The widespreadinterestin constructivismamongmathematicseducationtheorists,

researchers,andpractitionershas led to a plethoraof differentmeaningsfor "con-

structivism."

Althoughtermssuchas "radical constructivism" and"socialconstructivism"

providesome orientation,thereis a diversityof epistemologicalperspectiveseven

within these categories(cf. Steffe & Gale, 1995). Therefore,it seems importantto

describebriefly the constructivistperspectiveon which ourresearchis based.

Constructivismderives from a philosophicalposition that we as humanbeings

have no access to an objective reality,thatis, a realityindependentof our way of

knowingit. Rather,we constructourknowledgeof ourworldfromourperceptions

and experiences,which arethemselvesmediatedthroughourpreviousknowledge.

Learningis the process by which humanbeings adaptto their experientialworld.

From a constructivistperspective,we have no way of knowing whethera con-

cept matches an objective reality. Ourconcern is whetherit works (fits with our

experientialworld). Von Glasersfeld(1987, 1995) refersto this as "viability,"in

keeping with the biological model of learningas adaptationdeveloped by Piaget

(1970). To clarify, a concept works or is viable to the extent thatit does what we

need it to do: to make sense of our perceptionsor data, to make an accuratepre-

diction,to solve a problem,or to accomplisha personalgoal. Confrey(1995) points

outthata corollaryto theradicalconstructivistepistemologyis its "recursivefidelity-

constructivismis subjectto its own claims aboutthe limits of knowledge. Thus,

[constructivism]is only trueto the extent thatit is shown useful in allowing us to

make sense of our experience." When what we experience differs from the

expected or intended,disequilibriumresults and our adaptive(learning)process

is triggered.Reflection on successful adaptiveoperations(reflective abstraction)

leads to new or modified concepts.

Perhapsthe most divisive issue in recentepistemologicaldebates(Steffe & Gale,

1995) is whetherknowledge development(particularlyrelationalknowledge) is

116 ReconstructingMathematicsPedagogy

two positionsseemsto dependon thefocus of the observer.The radicalconstructivist

positionfocuses on the individual'sconstruction,thustakinga cognitiveor psycho-

logicalperspective.Althoughsocialinteraction is seenas animportant contextforlearn-

ing, the focus is on the resultingreorganizationof individualcognition.

ForPiaget,justas forthecontemporary the"others"

radicalconstructivist, withwhom

socialinteractiontakesplace,arepartof theenvironment, nomorebutalsonolessthan

anyof therelatively "permanent" objectsthechildconstructs

withintherangeof itslived

experience.(vonGlasersfeld,1995)

Onthe otherhand,epistemologistswitha socioculturalorientationsee highermen-

tal processes as socially determined."Socioculturalprocessesaregiven analytical

prioritywhenunderstanding individualmentalfunctioningratherthanthe otherway

around."(Wertsch& Toma, 1995) Froma social perspective,knowledge resides

in the culture,which is a system thatis greaterthanthe sum of its parts.

Ourpositioneschews eitherextremeandbuildson the theoreticalworkof Cobb,

Yackel,andWood(Cobb,1989;Cobb,Yackel,& Wood,1993;Wood,Cobb,& Yackel,

1995) and Bauersfeld(1995), whose theories are groundedin both radicalcon-

structivism(vonGlasersfeld,1991)andsymbolicinteractionism (Blumer,1969).Cobb

(1989) pointsoutthatthe coordinationof the two perspectivesis necessaryto under-

standlearningin theclassroom.Theissueis notwhetherthe socialor cognitivedimen-

sion is primary,butratherwhatcan be learnedfromcombininganalysesfromthese

two perspectives.I drawan analogywith physicists'theoriesof light.Neithera par-

ticle theorynora wave theoryof lightis sufficientto characterizethephysicist'sdata.

However,it hasbeenusefulto physiciststo considerlightto be a particleandto con-

siderlightto be a wave. Coordinatingthe findingsthatderivefromeachperspective

has led to advancementsin the field. Likewise,it seems useful to coordinateanaly-

ses on the basis of psychological(cognitive)and sociologicalperspectivesin order

to understandknowledgedevelopmentin classrooms.

Psychologicalanalysisof mathematicsclassroomlearningfocuses on individu-

als' knowledgeof andaboutmathematics',theirunderstandingof the mathematics

of theothers,andtheirsenseof thefunctioningof themathematicsclass.Sociological

analysisfocuses on taken-as-shared knowledgeandclassroomsocial norms(Cobb,

Yackel, & Wood, 1989). "Taken-as-shared"(Cobb, Yackel, & Wood, 1992;

Streeck,1979)indicatesthatmembersof the classroomcommunity,havingno direct

access to each other's understanding,achieve a sense thatsome aspectsof knowl-

edge are sharedbut have no way of knowing whetherthe ideas are in fact shared.

"Socialnorms"referto thatwhich is understoodby the communityas constituting

effective participationin the mathematicsclassroomcommunity.The social norms

ject andknowledgeaboutmathematicsas "understandings aboutthe natureof mathematicalknowledge

and activity:what is entailedin doing mathematicsand how truthis establishedin the domain.What

countsas a solutionin mathematics?How aresolutionsjustifiedandconjecturesdisproved?Whichideas

are arbitraryor conventionaland which arenecessaryor logical?"(p. 7)

MartinA. Simon 117

the conceptionsof whatit meansto do mathematicsin thatcommunity,andtheways

that mathematicalvalidity is established.

Itis usefulto see mathematics

as bothcognitiveactivityconstrainedby socialandcul-

turalprocesses,andas a socialandculturalphenomenon thatis constituted

by a com-

munityof activelycognizingindividuals (Wood,Cobb,& Yackel,1995).

We refer to this coordinationof psychological and sociological analyses as

"social constructivism."

SOCIALCONSTRUCTIVISMAND MATHEMATICSPEDAGOGY

teachersa conceptualframeworkwith whichto understandthe learningof theirstu-

dents.Althoughthe developmentof suchunderstandings is extremelyvaluable,this

paper focuses on the question of how constructivism mightcontributeto a recon-

structionof mathematicspedagogy.How mightit informthedevelopmentof a frame-

work for fostering and supporting learners' constructions of powerful ideas?

Wood, Cobb, and Yackel (1995) assertthat

teachersmust... construct waysof learn-

a formof practicethatfitswiththeirstudents'

ingmathematics. Thisis thefundamental challengethatfacesmathematics teacheredu-

cators.Wehaveto reconstruct whatit meanstoknowanddomathematics in schooland

thuswhatit meansto teachmathematics.

As I statedabove, constructivism,as an epistemologicaltheory,does not define

a particularway of teaching.It describesknowledge developmentwhetheror not

thereis a teacherpresentor teachingis going on. Konold (1995) argues,"notthat

a teacher'sepistemologyhas no effect on how he or she teaches,ratherthatits effects

areneitherstraightforward nordeterministic." Thereis no simplefunctionthatmaps

teachingmethodology onto principles.A constructivistepistemology

constructivist

does not determinethe appropriateness or inappropriateness of teachingstrategies.

Bauersfeld(1995) states,

Thefundamentally constructivenatureof humancognitionandtheprocessualemer-

genceof themes,regularities,andnormsformathematizing acrosssocialinteraction,

to bringthe[psychological]andthesocialtogether,makeit impossibleto endupwith

a simpleprescriptivesummary forteaching.Thereis no waytowardsanoperational-

izationof thesocialconstructivist withoutdestroying

perspective theperspective.

The commonly used misnomer,"constructivistteaching,"however, suggests to

the contrarythat constructivismoffers one set notion of how to teach. The ques-

tion of whetherteachingis "constructivist" is not a useful one anddivertsattention

fromthemoreimportant question of how effectiveit is. Froma theoreticalperspective,

the questionthatneeds attentionis, In what ways can constructivismcontributeto

the developmentof useful theoreticalframeworksfor mathematicspedagogy?

It is overly simplistic and not useful to connect constructivismto teachingwith

the romanticnotion, "Leavestudentsalone and they will constructmathematical

118 ReconstructingMathematicsPedagogy

solve problems,"is not muchmorehelpful.Historyprovidesunsolicitedempirical

evidencewithrespectto theseapproaches. Generations of outstanding mathematicians

who wereengagedin mathematical problems,who communicated withtheircolleagues

abouttheirwork,requiredthousandsof yearsto developmathematicsthatwe expect

ouraverageelementaryschoolstudentsto construct(Richards,1991).Thus,although

it is usefulto havestudentsworkproblemsandcommunicateabouttheirideas,it does

not seem to be adequateas a prescriptionfor mathematicsteaching.The challenge

is, Howcanmathematics teachersfosterstudents'construction ofpowerfulmathematical

ideas thattookthe communityof mathematiciansthousandsof years to develop?

Richardsasserts,

It is necessary[forthemathematics teacher]to providea structure anda set of plans

thatsupport thedevelopment of informed andreflective

exploration inquirywithouttak-

inginitiativeorcontrolawayfromthestudent.Theteachermustdesigntasksandpro-

jectsthatstimulate students

to askquestions,

poseproblems, andsetgoals.Students will

notbecomeactivelearners by accident,butbydesign,through theuseof theplansthat

we structure to guideexplorationandinquiry.2(p.38 [Italicsintheoriginal])

Throughempiricaldataand model building,this study attemptsto examine the

process of constitutingpedagogicaldesigns.

RECENTTHEORETICALWORK ON PEDAGOGICALFRAMEWORKS

of theoreticalframeworksfor mathematicspedagogyconsistentwithconstructivism.

This seems to be the resultof several factors:

1. It is only recentlythatempiricallybasedmodelsfor studyingmathematicslearn-

ing in classrooms have been articulated(cf. Wood, Cobb, Yackel, & Dillon,

1993). Earlierempiricalwork, which derivedfrom, and contributedto, epistemo-

logicaltheory,focusedon thecognitivedevelopmentof individuallearners(cf. Steffe,

von Glasersfeld,Richards,& Cobb, 1983).

2. Traditionalviews of mathematics,learning,and teachinghave been so wide-

spreadthatresearchersstudyingteachers'thinking,beliefs, and decision making

have had little access to teacherswho had well-developedconstructivistperspec-

tives and who understoodand were implementing currentreform ideas. As a

resulttherehas been a lack of connectionbetweenresearchon learning(whichhas

focusedon constructivism)andresearchon teaching(whichhas focusedfor themost

parton traditionalinstruction).

3. The need for pedagogicalframeworksis sometimesobscuredby the tendency

to assume thatconstructivismdefines an approachto teaching.

est in fosteringmoreindependentandreflectivemathematicalinvestigationsanddiscussionsamongstu-

dents.Froma constructivistperspective,studentsarealways activelearners;however,the natureof what

is constructedin differentclassroomcontexts may vary greatly.

MartinA. Simon 119

Despite these factors, some importantwork has been done in recentyears with

respectto rethinkingmathematicsteachingon thebasisof a constructivist perspective

(in some cases withoutspecificreferenceto constructivism).This workhas focused

on identifying the roles of mathematicsteachers and describing the nature of

"pedagogicaldeliberations"(Ball, 1993).

The Professional Standardsfor School Mathematics (National Council of

Teachersof Mathematics,1991)envisionsteachers'responsibilities in fourkey areas:

* Setting

goalsandselecting

orcreating

mathematicaltaskstohelpstudents

achieve

thesegoals;

* Stimulating andmanaging classroomdiscourseso thatboththestudentsand

theteacherarecleareraboutwhatis beinglearned;

* Creatinga classroom

environmenttosupport

teaching andlearningmathematics;

* Analyzingstudentlearning,themathematicaltasks,andtheenvironment in

orderto makeongoinginstructionaldecisions.(p. 5)

Cobb, Wood, and Yackel (1993) elaboratethe teacher's responsibilitiesin the

mathematicsclassroom.The teacherhas the dualrole of fosteringthe development

of conceptualknowledgeamongheror his studentsandof facilitatingtheconstitution

of shared knowledge in the classroom community. Cobb et al. (1993) have

demonstratedthatclassroomconversationsaboutmathematics,facilitatedby the

teacher, result in taken-as-shared mathematical knowledge. They have also

described a second type of conversationthat focuses on what constitutes appro-

priateand effective mathematicalactivity in the classroom. Such discussion con-

tributesto the constitutionandmodificationof social normsfor mathematicalactiv-

ity, the contrat didactique3(Brousseau, 1981).

Much of the teacher'sresponsibilitiesinvolve planning.However, the planning

of instructionbased on a constructivistview of learningfaces an inherenttension.

Brousseauemphasizesthatstudentsmusthave freedomto makea responseto a sit-

uationon the basisof theirpastknowledgeof the contextandtheirdevelopingmath-

ematicalunderstandings.If the situationleads the studentsto a particularresponse,

no reallearningof themathematical ideasunderlyingthatresponsetakesplace.However,

"if the teacherhas no intention,no plan, no problemor well-developed situation,

the childwill not do andwill not learnanything"(Brousseau,1987, p. 8-my trans-

lation).Underthese conditions,studentslearnotherthings,such as how to respond

appropriatelyto the teacher'sleading questions.

Brousseau(1983),Douady(1985),Lampert(1990),andBall (1993)haveconducted

investigationsinto the natureof pedagogical thinking and decision making that

contributeto teacherplanning.Brousseau(1987) assertsthatpartof the role of the

teacheris to takethe noncontextualizedmathematicalideasthatareto be taughtand

embedthemin a contextfor studentinvestigation.Sucha contextshouldbe personally

meaningfulto the students,allowingthemto solve problemsin thatcontext,the solu-

tionof whichmightbe a specificinstantiation of the ideato be learned.(Ball's [1993]

120 ReconstructingMathematicsPedagogy

teacher'sjob is to proposea learningsituationwithinwhich studentsseek a response

to the milieu,not a responsethatis solely intendedto pleasetheteacher.Fortheprob-

lem to fosterthe learningof powerfulmathematicalideas, the studentsmustaccept

theproblemas theirproblem4; theymustaccepttheresponsibility fortruth(Balacheff,

1990). Brousseaucalls this the devolutionof the problem.

The creationof appropriate problemcontexts(situationsa-didactiques)is not suf-

ficientforlearning.Brousseaupointsoutthatsituationsmustbe createdforthedecon-

textualizinganddepersonalizing of theideas(situationsdidactiques).Learninginvolves

being able to use the ideas beyond the narrowcontext of the originalproblemsit-

uation."Theteachingprocessshouldallowforthisshiftof pupils'interestfrombeing

practitionersto becoming theoreticians"(Balacheff, 1990, p. 264).

Also necessaryis what the Frenchresearcherscall "situationsfor institutional-

ization"(Brousseau,1987;Douady, 1985), in which ideas constructedor modified

duringproblemsolving attainthe statusof knowledgein the classroomcommunity.

This is consistentwith the notionof mathematicalknowledgeas social knowledge,

as knowledge thatis taken-as-sharedby the classroomcommunity.

Lampert's(1990) use of "problems"correspondswith Brousseau'ssituationsand

Ball's representational contexts.Lampertdescribesthepedagogicalthinkingin which

she engages to generateproblemsfor her students.

Atthebeginning of a unit,whenwewereswitching toa newtopic,theproblem westarted

withwaschosenforits potentialto exposea widerangeof students'thinkingabouta

bitof mathematics, tomakeexplicitandpublicwhattheycoulddoandhowtheyunder-

stand.Laterproblems werechosenbasedonanassessment of theresultsof thefirstand

subsequentdiscussionsof a topic,movingthe agendaalonginto new but related

mathematical territory.Themostimportant criterionin pickinga problemwasthatit

be thesortof problemthatwouldhavethecapacityto engageallof thestudentsin the

classin makingandtestingmathematical hypotheses.Thesehypotheses areimbedded

in theanswersstudents givetotheproblem,andso comparing answersengagedtheclass

in a discussionof therelativemathematical meritsof varioushypotheses,settingthe

stageforthekindof zig-zagbetweeninductiveobservation anddeductivegeneraliza-

tionthatLakatosandPolyasee as characteristic of mathematical activity.(p. 39)

Suchpedagogicalthinkingmustbe builton knowledgeof mathematicsandknowl-

edge of studentsandhow they learnmathematics.Ball (1993) pointsout thatteach-

ers musthave a "bifocalperspective-perceivingthe mathematicsthroughthe mind

of thelearnerwhileperceivingthemindof thelearnerthroughthemathematics" (p.159).

Steffe (1991) stressesthatthe teachers'plansmustbe informedby the "mathematics

of students.""Themost basic responsibilityof constructivistteachersis to learnthe

mathematical knowledgeof theirstudentsandhow to harmonizetheirteachingmeth-

ods withthe natureof thatmathematicalknowledge"(Steffe& Wiegel, 1992,p. 17).

Decisionsas to the natureandsequenceof the mathematicsto be taughtaremade,

according to Laborde (1989), on the basis of hypotheses about epistemology

tiationcommonlytakesplacein the classroomto arriveat a taken-as-shared of theproblem.

interpretation

MartinA. Simon 121

explicatestheinvestigative

is essentiallyan ongoinginquiryintocontentandlearnersandintoways thatcontexts

can be structuredto facilitatethe developmentof learners'understandings" (p. 166).

Ball states that researchis needed to furtherunderstandthe pedagogicaldelib-

erationsin reform-orientedmathematics teaching.Buildingon theworkof theresearchers

citedaboveandstartingfroma socialconstructivistperspectiveon knowledgedevel-

opment,my papercontinuesthe discussion of pedagogicaldeliberationsthatlead

to the determinationof problemcontextsfor studentinvolvement.In particular,the

paperextendsthe notionof teachingas inquiry,examinesthe roleof differentaspects

of teachers'knowledge, and explores the ongoing and inherentchallenge to inte-

grate the teacher's goals and direction for learning with the trajectory of students'

mathematical thinking and learning.

OF A TEACHINGEXPERIMENT

This section focuses on datafrom a classroomteachingexperiment,in orderto

analyzesituationsin which a constructivisttheoreticalperspectivecame up against

the realities of real students in a real classroom. The nonroutineproblems of

teachingrequirean elaborationandmodificationof theoriesof learningandteach-

ing. When the researcher/theorist assumesthe role of teacherin a researchproject,

he is uniquelypositionedto studyin a directway the interactionof his theoryand

practice.Particularly,this reportfocuses on the teacher/researcher's

ongoing deci-

sion makingwith respect to the mathematicalcontentof the course and the tasks

andquestionsthatprovideda contextforthestudyof thatcontent.This sectionbegins

with some brief backgroundon the teachingexperiment.

Background

The teachingexperimentwas partof the Constructionof ElementaryMathematics

(CEM) Project,a 3-year study of the mathematicaland pedagogicaldevelopment

of prospectiveelementaryteachers.The projectstudiedthe prospectiveteachersin

the contextof anexperimentalteacherpreparation programdesignedto increasetheir

mathematicalknowledgeandto fostertheirdevelopmentof views of mathematics,

learning, and teaching that were consistent with the views espoused in recent

reform documents (e.g., National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989;

1991). Data collection with 26 prospectiveelementaryteachers(20 of whom fin-

ished the program) proceeded throughouta mathematics course, a course on

mathematicslearning and teaching, a 5-week pre-student-teachingpracticum,

and a 15-week student-teachingpracticum.

Theresearchon themathematics courseandthecourseon mathematics learningand

teachingemployed a constructivist

teaching-experiment methodology,as described

by CobbandSteffe(1983)forresearchwithindividual subjects.We adaptedthatmethod-

ology to researchon classroom mathematics (in the mannerof Cobbet al., 1993).

The authortaughtall classes. Classes were videotapedand field notes were taken

122 ReconstructingMathematicsPedagogy

authorkepta reflectivenotebookin whichhe recordedhis thinkingimmediatelyfol-

lowing teachingandplanningsessions. Following each class the authormet with a

second projectresearcherto discuss what he and his colleague inferredthe con-

ceptualizationsof the studentsto be at thatpointandto planfor the next instructional

intervention.(Inthis section,"students"refersto the prospectiveelementaryteach-

ers participatingin the teachingexperiment.)These meetingswere audiotaped.

The teaching-experiment methodologyinvolves"hypothesizingwhatthe [learner]

mightlearnandfindingways of fosteringthis learning"(Steffe, 1991, p. 177). This

researchreportrepresents anextensionof theteaching-experiment

methodology. Whereas

the teachingexperimentwas createdto learnaboutstudents'developingconceptions

(ourprimaryemphasis),analysisof the decision makingof the teacher/researcher

in posing problemsis potentiallya rich sourcefor learningaboutteaching(Cobb,

personalcommunication).This paperis based on such an analysis.

Class lessons generallyconsisted of small-groupproblemsolving and teacher-

led whole-classdiscussions.No lectureswere given.Theprimarymathematicalgoal

of the course was for students to learn to identify multiplicativerelationships

(Simon& Blume, 1994a,1994b).Previousresearchon a varietyof populations(Hart,

1981;Inhelder& Piaget, 1958;Karplus,Karplus,Formisano,& Paulson,1979) and

ourpretestdatawiththispopulationof studentshadshownthatidentifyingratiorela-

tionshipstends to be difficult and thatadditivecomparisonsare often used where

multiplicativecomparisons(ratios)are more appropriate.The mathematicalcon-

tentof the coursebeganwithexplorationof the multiplicativerelationshipinvolved

in evaluatingthe areaof rectangles.

The datapresentedfocuseson threeteachingsituations,examiningtherelationship

amongthe teacher'sdecision makingand the classroomactivities.These dataare

from the first 5 weeks of the 15-weekmathematicscourse,the durationof the first

instructionalunit,andaretakenfromclass transcripts, theteacher/researcher's notes,

fieldnotesfromotherresearchers, andstudentjournals.Thefirstunit(eight90-minute

classes) focused on understandingthe multiplicativerelationshipinvolved in eval-

uatingthe areaof a rectangle.The threeinstructionalsituationsdescribedrepresent

the three subtopics of the instructionalunit. For each situation, a descriptionis

providedof the challenge that faced the teacheras construedby the teacher,the

decision thathe made to respondto thatchallenge, and the subsequentclassroom

interactionthat was constitutedby the studentsand teacher.

Note thatfundamentalto theteacher'sunderstanding of thechallengewas his con-

structivistperspective,which includedthe idea thatstudentsconstructtheirunder-

standings,theydo notabsorbtheunderstandings of theirteachers.Eachof thethreesit-

uationsrepresentsanattemptto promoteandsupportpowerfulconstructions. Whereas

tellingstudents whatthey shouldunderstand(a lecture is

approach) relativelystraight-

forward,developingsituationsa-didactiquesor representational contextsis complex

anduncertain.Inthislatterapproach,mathematicsteachingis continuallyproblematic.

MartinA. Simon 123

tiplicativerelationshipsin the evaluationof areaof rectangles.My purposewas to

focus on the multiplicative relationshipsinvolved, not to teach about area. The

lesson I chose was one that I had used several times before with similar groups

of students.The lesson grew out of my observationthat althoughmany prospec-

tive elementaryteachersrespondto area-of-rectangleproblemsby multiplying,

their choice of multiplicationis often the result of having learneda procedureor

formularatherthanthe resultof a solid conceptuallink between theirunderstand-

ings of multiplicationandtheirunderstandings of measuringarea.Thislesson,which

was designed to foster the developmentof thatlink, was plannedto be completed

in one day, althoughI anticipatedthatit might continueinto the next class.

The lessonbeganwith a smallcardboard rectanglebeinggiven to eachof the small

groupsof studentsseatedat the classroom'ssix rectangulartables.The groupswere

challengedto solve the following problem.

Rectanglesproblem 1. Determinehow manyrectangles,of the size and shape

of the rectanglethatyou were given, could fit on the top surfaceof your table.

Rectanglescannotbe overlapped,cannotbe cut, norcan they overlapthe edges

of the table.Be preparedto describeto the class how you solved this problem.

Each groupof studentsused the given rectangleas a measureto count the num-

ber of rectanglesalong the length of the table and the numberof rectanglesalong

the width of the table and then multipliedthese two quantities.(For an extensive

analysisof the quantitativereasoninginvolved in this instructionalunit, see Simon

& Blume, 1994b.5)However,a few of the groupsraisedthe questionof whetherthe

orientationof the rectangleshouldbe maintainedfor the second measurement(see

Figure la), or whetherit shouldbe rotated90 degrees so thatmeasuringis always

done using the same side of the rectangle(see Figure lb).

the rectangle. the adjacentside.

During whole-class discussion, students described how they had solved the

problem.Then,to focus discussionon the multiplicativerelationships,I askedthem

"5Much of the datafor this reportwas reportedearlierin Simon and Blume (1994b). The earlierarti-

cle focuses on the students'quantitativereasoning.This articlerevisitssome of the datato unpackthe

pedagogicalissues.

124 Reconstructing Mathematics Pedagogy

like theeasiestway,"or "inpreviousmathclassesyou learnedtheformulafor areas"

(Simon& Blume, 1994b).Otherssaidit works;the productis the same as the result

of countingup all the rectangles.I asked whetherthere was reasonto expect that

it would always work. Frommy perspective,it is fundamentalin mathematicsto

considerwhethera claim could be defendedthatthe observedphenomenonwould

always occurundera particularset of conditions.Most of the studentsseemedper-

plexed by this question.However, Molly explained:

Molly: Well,it wouldworkbecause,um,multiplying andaddingarerelated,in thatmul-

tiplyingis, is likeaddinggroups,andso it wouldalwaysworkbecauseyouaddthem

upto seehowmanyis inthesquareandtomultiply thegroupsthatgo likethat,that'll

alwayswork.Youwouldgetthesamenumber,I'msayingif youaddedthemorif

youmultiplied thatsidetimesthatside.Becauseyou'readding,I mean,you'remul-

thenumber

tiplying of groupsbythenumber inthegroups,whichis thesameasadding

themall up.

Molly clarifiedherexplanationby demonstrating on the chalkboardhow eachrow

of rectangleswas a group(see Figure2) andthe numberof rectanglesin a row was

thenumberin eachgroup.Sheshowedthatsummingtherectangles in eachrow(repeated

addition) was to

equivalent multiplying the number in a row by the numberof rows

(Simon & Blume, 1994b).

ceived thatMolly's explanationhadadvancedthe discussionin any significantway.

situationmightaffordotherstudentstheopportunity

Situation1. Whatinstructional

to constructunderstandings similarto Molly's?It wasn'tthatthe otherstudentswere

puzzled by Molly's explanation;they seemed unaffectedby it. They continuedto

respondto the question,"Whymultiply?"in ways thatindicatedthatthe question

didnotdemandforthemthistypeof justification.Responsesincluded"...'cause that's

the way we've been taught."and"... it's a mathematicallaw."Asking the students

for explanationsandjustificationswas not sufficient.Ourclassroomcommunityhad

notestablishedwhatcountsformathematical justification(Simon& Blume,in press).

It did not seem thatcontinuingthis alreadylengthydiscussionwould be fruitful.

MartinA. Simon 125

fosteredcommunicationin small and large groups.Yet only a few of my students

showedevidenceof learningthe mathematicsthatI hadintendedthemto learn.The

challengethatI facedwas a productof bothcognitiveandsocialfactors.Cognitively,

the majorityof my studentswere employing a procedurethat was well-practiced

but not well-examinedconceptually.Socially, they did not have a view of math-

ematicalactivityin generalandof appropriate activityfor ourclassroomin particular

thatincludedthe typeof relationalthinkinganddevelopmentof justificationin which

I was attemptingto engage them.

I realizedthatthe developmentof normsfor classroommathematicsactivitywould

take some time. Such normswould resultfrom the activitiesin which we engaged

as a mathematicalcommunityand the discussions thatwe had aboutthatactivity.

Theircompetencein providingjustificationwouldgrowas theyengagedin discussions

in which the demandfor justificationwas consistentlypresent(Simon & Blume,

in press). Thus, from a social perspective,I needed to continuethe process that I

hadbegunwiththem.However,thisprocesscouldnothappenin theabstract. Particular

contentandtaskswereneededas the contextforthe constitutingof appropriate math-

ematicalactivity.Thus,I returnedto my role of problemposer,butthe questionwas,

"Whichproblems?"The traditionalapproach-assigning practiceproblemssim-

ilar to the originalone-seemed inappropriate.Afterall, the studentswere already

able to generatecorrect answers;the real problemwas understandingwhy mul-

tiplicationwas appropriate.I needed to find problemsthatnecessitatedan under-

standingof the linkbetweenthe solutionstrategy,countingthe numberof rectangles

along the length and the width and multiplyingthose quantities,and the goal of

determiningthe total numberof rectanglesthat could be laid out on the table.

To generatesuch problems,I made use of conceptualdifficulties thatI had pre-

viously observedamongstudentsworkingon RectanglesProblem1. Forexample:

Rectanglesproblem2. Bill said, "If the table is 13 rectangleslong and 9 rec-

tangleswide, andif I count 1, 2, 3 ..., 13 andthen again 1, 2, 3 ..., 9, andthen

I multiply, 13 x 9, then I have countedthe comer rectangletwice." Respond

to Bill's comment.

Problem2 seemed to engage studentsin makinga conceptuallink between the

goal of counting all of the rectangles and the prevalent solution strategy of

countingrectanglesalong the two sides andmultiplying.The following excerpts

from the class transcriptshow the development of these connections. (Note:

"Simon"refersto me, the teacher.)

Karen:Whenwe'remultiplying thirteentimesninewe'retryingto see ... howmanynines

thereare....So if I'mlookingatonenine,twonines,threenines,fournines,I could

findouthowmuchit wouldbe withthosenumbers, butif I'mlookingforthirteen

nines,I wouldwantto seehowmanyof thoseI wouldhaveif I wouldaddthemup

orif I wouldmultiplythemthirteentimes.Howmany-how muchwouldthatbe if

I hadthirteenninesorninethirteens? I'mlookingfortheamount-totalamountthat

thatwouldbe if I wasmultiplying howmanygroupsof thoseorhowmanysetsof

thosewouldI have,if I wouldaddeachoneof themupto getthetotalamount.

126 ReconstructingMathematicsPedagogy

Karen has made some progress in justifying the use of multiplication. However,

Toni goes back to how one uses the formula appropriately. Her explanation is based

on her identification of the problem as an area problem and her knowledge of how

to measure length times width. Once again I attempt to refocus Toni (and, I suspect,

other students) on the underlying conceptual issue.

Toni: Whenwe're tryingto findhow manyrectangleswouldfill thatrectangle,we're look-

ing forthearea.Andwhenwe findareawe multiplylengthtimeswidth,andthecolumns

would probablyrepresentthe length and the rows would representthe width....

Simon: Why does thatwork,thatwhen we multiplythe numberof columnstimes the num-

ber of rows we get the area?

Molly: Well, I thoughtagain it referredback to when you're using a row to representthe

unitsin a group,andthe columnsto representthe numberof groups,andsince mul-

tiplicationis the same as repeatedaddition,that when you multipliedthe number

of unitsin a groupby the numberof groups,you wouldget the totalnumberof parts

in the whole.

Simon: And how is thatconnectedto this issue aboutthe corner?

Molly: Becauseit ... the comernot only representsa one, it'sjust one numberingof a group,

or it's also numberinga partof thatunit-a unit in thatgroup-so it's not, it's two

differentthings,just like when they were saying it's a row and a column, well, it's

two differentthings, it's a unit and also representinga group.

Candy: ...It makes it confusing to try to look at the length times the width.... You should

reallytreatit as so manysets or so manygroups,like nine groups..., thirteengroups

of nine. Thatway, you'renot even going to deal with the comerandyou won't even

have thatproblem.

Karen: Have we responded to Bill's problem about him thinking that he has double-

counted?

At this point, Karen brings us back to the original problem. For her, it is not enough

to decide whether one would be double-counting the corner rectangle; it is also impor-

tant to understand Bill's thinking, which led to his confusion.

Karen: It appearsto me thatBill's thinkingabout... countingby ones.... one representstwo

differentthings, but in his mind, at least from what he said, it appearsthathe only

sees one as representingone thing,andthatis a countingnumber.He thinkshe's already

countedit.

Candy's and Karen' s comments seem to demonstrate an understanding of how

the counting (vertically and horizontally) and the multiplication are related. I

push for further verbalization of the ideas involved to ascertain whether others in

the class have constructed similar meanings. Many now insist that we are really

counting rows and columns. I suspect that some of the students have latched onto

the notion of rows and columns in an unexamined way. The shift from counting

boxes to counting rows and columns does not in itself lead to a connection

between counting the total number and the multiplicative approach. I refocus my

questions on this connection.

Simon: So I'm not countingboxes at all?

Class: No.

Simon: OK. Isn't it a little mysteriousthatwe're never countingboxes here and we wind

up witha numberof boxes?Does thatbotheranybody?We didn'tcountboxes here,

MartinA. Simon 127

we didn'tcountboxesthere,andwe windupwithboxesattheend.Tammy?

Tammy:If eachboxrepresentsa portionof therowso we'rereallycounting

boxesbutwe're

justputtingthemin a set,insteadof individually.

Simon: OK,so whichwayareyouthinkingaboutthesetsgoing?[Pointsatdiagramon

theboard]Thiswayorthatway?Chooseone.

Tammy:Vertically?

Simon: So thisis a set?OK.So you aresayingthisis ninewhat?

Tammy:Nineseparateunitsinsideof a set.

Simon: ...OK. So hereI countednineboxesin a set andthenhereI'mcountingwhat?

Tammy: Thirteen.

Simon: Thirteenwhat?

Tammy:Boxesin a set.

[Ellen is shakingher head]

Simon: Ellen,youdon'tlikethat.

Ellen: If you'regoingto do it thatway,I thinkyouhaveto saythatyou'regoingto take

thecolumnasa set,nineboxesinoneset ... thenthethirteen intherowis thenum-

berof setsthatyouhave,so it's notactuallyboxes,it's thenumberof thatsame

typeof setthatyouhave.

Ellen'sfinalcommentevokedmanynodsof agreementfromherclassmates.I con-

sidered,however,thatfora studentto followanexplanationmightnotrequirethesame

level of understandingas would be needed to generate an explanation.Still, it

seemedclearto me fromstudents'verbalizations thatthenumberof studentswho were

seeing a connectionbetween multiplication countingthetotalnumberof rectangles

and

hadincreased.PerhapsProblem2 shiftedthediscussionfrommyproblem-justifying

the methodthatthe studentsbelievedto be valid-to a communityproblem-how to

accountforthe "doublecounting."Problem2 seemedto providea puzzlement,atleast

initiallyfor mostof the students.We cannotassume,however,thatall of the students

relatedto Problem1 as my problem,northatall of them owned Problem2.

in evaluatingthe areaof a rectangle,I came to believe thatthe contextin which we

were working (area) was not well understoodby many of the students. They

seemed to think about area as generated by multiplying length times width.

Althoughmy primaryfocuswas on multiplicative noton area,it seemed

relationships,

clearthatan understanding of areawas necessaryin orderfor studentsto thinkabout

constitutingthe quantity(area)and evaluatingthatquantity.(See Simon & Blume,

1994b;and Thompson,1994, for explicationsof the distinctionbetween constitu-

tion and evaluationof quantities.)What action could I take as a teacher?

It seemedthat,if indeedthese studentswere unclearaboutwhatis meantby area,

the traditionalresponseof "reviewing"the idea would be inadequate.Surelyby this

time, theirjunior year of college, they had been presentat many such reviews and

had some ideas thatcould be built on. I chose insteadto pose a problemthatwould

push them to extend theirunderstandingof area.I posed the following:

128 ReconstructingMathematicsPedagogy

they sharedmany ideas. Two methodsstimulateda great deal of discussion. The

first was a suggestion that a stringbe put along the outline of the blob and then,

withoutchangingthe lengthof the string,reshapeit into a rectangle,a figurewhose

area we know how to determine. This method was based on an assumption,

eventuallyrejectedby the class, thatfiguresthathave the sameperimeteralso have

the same area.The secondmethodwas to cut out cookie doughof a constantthick-

ness so thatit exactly covered the blob. Then, cut the cookie dough into squares

of a given size. Roll up the remainingdough and roll it out to the original thick-

ness, again cuttingout squares,repeatingthis procedureuntil thereis not enough

dough remainingto make an additionalsquare.This methodwas acceptedby the

class as theoreticallysound;however, they predictedthatin practiceit would be

difficult to carryout accurately.

The problemgeneratedmore thandiscussion on the validity of these methods.

I perceivedthatthe contrastin the methodsproposedby the studentswould enable

us to considerthe issue of conservationof area,thatis, underwhatchangesin shape

the originalamountof areais preserved.This was a challengingcontextfor the stu-

dents to thinkaboutthe meaningof area.Considerabledialogue ensued in which

students seemed to be using the notion of area appropriately,comparing area

amongdifferentgeometricshapes,anddistinguishingit fromthe notionof perime-

ter that was broughtup by the stringstrategy.

Situation3. Following a discussionof why multiplicationwas used to determine

the total numberof rectanglesand afterour work with the blob problem,I raised

again the issue thatthey had broughtup in solving the originalproblem,whether

to turnthe rectangle(Figureib) or to maintainits orientation(Figurela). I demon-

stratedthe former,rotatingit 90 degrees to measurethe second side (as in Figure

ib). (Thequantitativereasoningbroughtto bearon thisproblemis analyzedin depth

in Simon & Blume, 1994b.)

Most of the students recognized that the method I demonstratedwould not

determinethenumberof rectanglesthatcouldfit on thetable.I thenaskedthemwhether

thatmethodtells us anythingaboutthis particulartable. (This questionis referred

Martin A. Simon 129

the numbergenerated was meaningless because the method generated a set of

"overlappingrectangles."

I was surprisedby theirresponseandconcernedaboutwhatit indicatedabouttheir

understandingof the multiplicative (area) unit. I had posed this extension to

encouragean understandingof the multiplicativerelationshipbetweenlinearmea-

suresof the rectangleandareameasures.The measurementstrategyin questionand

subsequentcomputationwas identicalto whattheypreviouslyhadlearnedto do with

a ruler(procedurally).In priorcourses,whenI posed this question,severalstudents

understoodthatthe quantityresultingfrommultiplyingthe two linearmeasuresrep-

resentedthe numberof squareunits of areaon the table.The squareunithad sides

equalto the length of the rectangleused for measuring.(See Figure3.) Generally,

the discussion thatensued led to a consensus with respectto this point.

Figure3. Constitution

of squareunits.

methodas generatingsquareunitsof sidesequalto thelengthof therectangle.Rather,

they wereconfidentin theirview thatthe numbergeneratedby thismethodwas non-

sense becauseit resultedin overlappingrectangles.I triedin differentways to pro-

mote disequilibriumso the studentswould reconsiderthe issue. Towardthis end,

I posed the following question:

Outin thehallI havetwo [rectangular] tablesof differentsizes.I usedthismethod..

whereI measureacrossoneway,turnthe[rectangle], measure downtheotherway,and

multiply....WhenI multipliedusing[this]method,on tableA I got 32 as myanswer

and[whenI measured] tableB [usingthesamerectangleandthesamemethod],I got

22. NowwhatI wantto knowis, [havingused]themethodof turningtherectangle,is

tableA bigger,is tableB bigger,ordon'tyouhaveenoughinformation frommymethod

to tell?(Simon& Blume,1994b,p. 480)

The studentsreasonedthatbecause 32 is greaterthan 22, table A must be big-

ger thantableB. I probed,"32 whatand22 what?"They respondedthatthe 32 and

22 did not countanythingmeaningfulbecausethis methodcreatedoverlappingrec-

tangles (as in the upperleft-handcornerof Figure ib).

My attemptsat creatingdisequilibriumwith my currentstudents,a key partof my

theoryand practice,had been ineffectual.How could I understandthe thinkingof

130 ReconstructingMathematicsPedagogy

erful understandings?I had never encounteredthis pedagogicalproblembefore.I

had alwaysposed the problem(of turningthe rectangle)withinthe whole-classdis-

cussion, andtherehad always been some studentswho explainedaboutthe square

units to theirclassmates.I had assumedthatthe otherstudentsunderstood.

One advantageof our teachingexperimentdesign was thattime was structured

into the projectto reflect,in collaborationwith a colleague, on the understandings

of the students.Ourreflectionled to the followinghypotheses(developedmorefully

in Simon & Blume, 1994b).

As a resultof RectanglesProblem1, andbecausethe measurementwas still being

done usingthe cardboardrectangle,the studentsanticipatedincorrectlythatthe unit

of areawouldbe rectanglesof the size of the cardboardone. They consideredwhen

they lay the rectanglealong one edge of the table thatthey were makinga row of

rectangles,a set, an iterableunit. (The discussionof Problems1 and 2 had encour-

aged studentsto thinkof a row as an iterableunit;Molly's view of a unit of units

now seemedto be taken-as-shared.) Whenthey movedthe rectangledownthe other

side, they were countingthe numberof iterations.This way of viewing the situa-

tion was adequatefor the originalproblems,but inadequatefor solving the exten-

sion (TR) problemin which a unitotherthanthe rectangleitself was being created.

The studentswere not "seeing"thatmeasuringwith the rectanglewas a process of

subdividingthe lengthandwidthof the tableinto smallerlinearunitsandthatthese

unitstogetherimplieda rectangulararrayof units,the size of these unitsdetermined

by the size of the linearunits.

Having constructedhypothesesof the students'thinking,I still needed to gen-

eratean appropriateinstructionalintervention.I reasonedthatif studentshadmis-

anticipatedthe unit of area,assumingthatthe cardboardrectanglewas the appro-

priatemeasure,thenprovidingthemwitha contextthatdid notinvitemisanticipation

might give themthe opportunityto determinean appropriateunitof areabasedon

linearunits.Eventually,they would still need to sortout the probleminvolving the

turnedrectangle.This thinkingled me to generatethe stick problemfollowed by

modificationof the originalproblemturningthe rectangleproblem.

Thestickproblem.Two peopleworktogetherto measurethesize of a rectangular

region;one measuresthe lengthandthe otherthe width.They each use a stick

to measurewith.The sticks,however,areof differentlengths.Louisasays, "The

lengthis fourof my sticks."Ruiz says, "Thewidthis five of my sticks."What

have they found out aboutthe areaof the rectangularregion?

Studentsworkedthe stickproblemin groupsof three.Some of the studentswere

able to see how the use of differentsize sticks could be thoughtof as determining

an arrayof nonsquarerectangles.Toni beganthe class discussionas time was run-

ning out. Ellen picked up the discussion in the following class.

Toni: It wouldprettymuchbe thesamethingas a rectanglebecause... thewidthof the

thanthelengthof therectangle,

is smaller

rectangle I mean,

soit doesn'treallymatter,

thearea... wouldbe 20 [of thesesmallrectangles].

Ellen: I didn'treallyunderstand untilTonidrewthatdiagramon theboard,thatI found

MartinA. Simon 131

startedthinkingthatyouwerestartingwiththeunit,andyouhadto startwiththe

unitto figureoutthearea.But... in mymindshesortof wentbackwards, sheended

upwitha unitof measurement by, um,makingtherectangle.

...Becausetheunityou'reusingis a rectanglethathasa lengththesizeof theone

stickandthewidththesizeof theotherstick,so you'resortof goingbackwards and

endingupwitha unitthatmeanssomething....(Simon& Blume,1994b,p. 489).

Throughthe discussionof thisproblemandan extensionquestionthataskedthem

to express the areaof Ruiz and Louisa's rectangularareain termsof otherunits, I

was persuadedthat most of the studentsunderstoodthe relationshipbetween the

linearmeasuresand the areameasuresin this context. The next step was to see if

they could use this understandingto revisitthe probleminvolving turningthe rec-

tangle.Wouldthe understandings thattheyhaddevelopedin the stickproblemallow

them to questiontheirassumptionof the cardboardrectangleas the appropriateunit

of measure?The revisedTR problemwas an attemptto maketheproblemmorecon-

creteby havingthem actuallymeasureout particularrectangularregionsusing the

methodin question.

Revised TRproblem.I used your [cardboard]rectangleandmy method(rotat-

ing the rectangle)to measuretwo rectangularregions;one was 3 x 4 and the

otherwas 5 x 2. Draw these regions (real size). Recordall thatyou can deter-

mine abouttheir areas.

Half of the small groupsdeterminedthatsquareswere useful units for describ-

ing the areasof the rectangularregions and could explain theirthinking.

Eve: First,whenwe starteddrawingit, we drewlike all the rectangles,OK?So it

showedtheoverlapping upinthecomer,butthenwethought justtakeawaytheover-

lapping..., andjustthinkof it as a side,likethisis a sideandthisis a side,likethe

sticksthatLouisaandRuizused,justto getthislittleedgerighthereas a stickand

thislittleedgerighthereasa stick,OK?...Sowhatit actually makesis squares,because

they'rethesamelength... youwouldn'ttalkaboutyourrectangles, 'causeit hasno

relevance.(Simon& Blume,1994b,p. 490-491)

Some of the studentswho had not previouslyseen the usefulnessof squareunits

in therevisedTRproblemdidso in thecourseof theclassdiscussion.However,a num-

berof students,who sawthatmeasuringin squaresworkedfortheproblem,wereunclear

how one would know "whento use rectanglesandwhen to use squares."

DISCUSSION

The discussion of the teachingsituationsis dividedinto two parts.The first part

examinesthe teacher'srole thatemergesin termsof the decisionmakingaboutcon-

tent andtask. This discussion,which focuses on the compositepictureof teaching

seen acrossthethreesituationspresented,leadsto thearticulation

of a modelof teacher

decision makingcalled the MathematicsTeaching Cycle. The second partof the

discussion highlightsparticularaspects of each of the situations(consideredsep-

arately),in an attemptto furtherelaboratethe role of the teacher.

132 ReconstructingMathematicsPedagogy

cal perspectiveson teachingand learning,some of which were articulatedearlier

in this paper.However,not surprisingly,these perspectivesdid not "tell"me what

to do as challengesarose.My responsesto these challengesoften werenot the result

of well-articulated models.Rather,theywereemergingpatternsof operationin prob-

lem situations.It is only througha posteriorianalysisthatthese patternshave been

characterized andusedto enhance,modify,or developtheory.Thus,thereadershould

keep in mind thatthe theoreticalaspectsof this section grew out of the dataanaly-

sis andwerenot necessarilypartof my explicitthinkingas I was planningandteach-

ing. Also, thesepatternsof operationwereestablishedoverrepeatedencounterswith

similarproblemsituations.I had taughtessentially this way for many years. This

particularteachingexperienceled to furtherelaborationof my teaching;the teach-

ing-experimentdesign led to a new level of analysis of the teaching.

In this section, I use the firstpersonsingularto referto my actionsandthinking

as the teacher.I use the thirdperson,often referringto "theteacher"to designate

ideasthatI am liftingfromtheparticularcontextin whichI was the teacher.Because

I was the teacherin these episodes, I use male pronounsin this section when refer-

ring to the teachergenerically.

This section analyzes the teacher'srole as decision makeras it emerges across

the threeteachingsituations.

The rectangleslesson was shapedby my understanding of the multiplicativerela-

tionshipbetweenthe areaof a rectangleandits linearmeasures.(The focus on my

personal knowledge does not discount that this knowledge can be viewed as

socially constitutedandtaken-as-sharedin the mathematicseducationcommunity.

Rather, it is expedient here to focus on my particularinterpretationof these

sociallyacceptedideas.) My previousexperiencewithprospectiveelementaryteach-

ers led me to hypothesize that my students would not share this knowledge.

Rather,I expectedthattheirknowledgewould be ruleboundandthatthe concepts

underlyingthe formulafor the areaof a rectanglewould be unexplored.The dis-

paritybetweenmy understanding, whichIjudgedto be useful,andmy sense of their

understanding defined my learninggoal for the first segment.

Note thathypothesesof students'understandings maybe basedon information from

a varietyof sources:experiencewith the studentsin the conceptualarea,experience

withthemin a relatedarea,pretesting,experiencewith a similargroup,andresearch

data.Initialhypothesesoftenlackdatathatareavailableas workwiththestudentspro-

ceeds. Thus,the hypothesesareexpectedto improve(i.e., become moreuseful).

Havingestablishedmy initial goal, thatstudentswould understandthe relation-

ship of multiplyinglength by width to the evaluationof the areaof a rectangle,I

consideredpossible learningactivities and the types of thinkingand learningthat

they might provoke.Following is a partialreconstructionof my thoughtprocess.

I suspectthatformanyof my studentsA = I x w is a formulathathasno conceptual

roots.Concreteexperiencewithareamightbe helpful.I needto keepin mindthatthey

MartinA. Simon 133

looklike theirpreviousexperienceswithareamightpreempttheirresortingimme-

diatelyto roteprocedures.

Tilinga rectangular regionwouldprovidetheconcreteexperience. If I canenvisiona

situationinwhichtheyformmultiple units,setsof tiles,theymayseetheappropriateness

of multiplication,in essence"deriving"theformula.I willnotmentionareabutjustask

themto findouthowmanytiles.However,if theyareto makeconnections withI x w,

theymustdo morethancounteachtile.

If I givethemonlyone smalltile,theywillneedto lookforanefficientwayof deter-

miningthenumberof tiles-which will encouragethemto go beyondcountingall of

thetiles.If I userectangular

tiles,theywillnotbe ableto measuremindlessly; theywill

needto considerhowtheirmeasuring relatesto theplacementof thetilesonthetable.

Measuring witha nonsquare rectangleto determine theareaencourages a levelof visu-

alizationthatis notrequiredwhenoneusesa rulerto determinesquareunits,thatis,

theywillhaveto takeintoaccountwhattheyarecounting,theunitof measure,which

is basedon howtheyarelayingthetileson thetable.

The precedingthoughtprocessprovidesan exampleof the reflexive relationship

betweenthe teacher'sdesignof activitiesandconsiderationof the thinkingthatstu-

dents might engage in as they participatein those activities.The considerationof

the learninggoal, the learningactivities,andthe thinkingandlearningin which stu-

dents might engage make up the hypothetical learning trajectory, a key part of the

MathematicalLearningCycle describedin the next section.

Besides the teacher's knowledge of mathematicsand his hypotheses aboutthe

students' understandings,several areas of teacher knowledge come into play,

includingthe teacher'stheoriesaboutmathematicsteachingandlearning;knowl-

edge of learning with respect to the particularmathematicalcontent (deriving

fromthe researchliteratureand/orthe teacher'sown experiencewith learners);and

knowledge of mathematical representations, materials, and activities. The

MathematicalLearningCycle portraysthe relationshipof these areasof knowledge

to the design of instruction.

The only thingthatis predictablein teachingis thatclassroomactivitieswill not

go as predicted.Althoughthe teachercreatesan initialgoal andplanfor instruction,

it generallymustbe modifiedmanytimes (perhapscontinually)duringthe studyof

a particularconceptualarea.As studentsbegin to engage in the plannedactivities,

the teachercommunicateswith and observesthe students,which leads the teacher

to new understandingsof the students' conceptions. The learning environment

evolves as a resultof interactionamongthe teacherand studentsas they engage in

themathematical content.Steffe(1990)pointsout,"Aparticularmodificationof a math-

ematicalconceptcannotbe causedby a teacheranymorethannutriments cancauseplants

to grow"(p. 392). A teachermay pose a task.However,it is whatthe studentsmake

of thattaskandtheirexperiencewithit thatdeterminesthepotentialfor learning.

Studentresponsesto the rectangleproblemsled me to believe that studentsdid

not adequatelyunderstandwhatis meantby area.As a result,I generateda new learn-

ing goal, understandingarea.This goal temporarilysupersededbut did not replace

the originallearninggoal. Towardthis end I posed the blob problem,anticipating

thatthe studentswouldbrainstormsome ways to find area,discussthose ways, and

134 ReconstructingMathematicsPedagogy

happenedresultedin additional,unanticipatedlearning.First,studentsproposedthe

stringstrategy.On the basis of the understandingthatI had developed of the stu-

dents' conceptualdifficultiesin consideringthe stringstrategy,andon the basis of

the interestingcontrastthatI saw between the stringstrategyand the dough strat-

egy (as a resultof my own mathematical understandings), I revisedmy goalforinstruc-

tion once again. I now saw as the (local) goal facilitatingstudents'understanding

of conservationof area(not limitedto Piaget'sassessmentof the conceptwith chil-

dren).I intendedfor my studentsto deal with the question,"Underwhat types of

change in shape does the areaof a region remaininvariant?"

My interestin theirconstructinganswersto this questionwas basedon threefac-

tors:(a) I believed thatit would furthertheirunderstandingof area,my motivation

for posing the blob problem;(b) I saw an opportunityfor learningbasedon thejux-

tapositionof the two strategies-an opportunitythatI had neitherplannedfor nor

anticipated;and (c) I believed thatthe concept of invariance,which I had thought

aboutpreviouslyin relationto arithmeticconceptsbut not area,was an important

one. The thirdfactoralso pointsouthow my own understanding of the mathematical

connectionsinvolved is enhancedas I attendto the mathematicalthinkingof my

students.This evolutionof the teacher'smathematicalknowledgeis also revealed

in the analysisof the thirdepisode,the datainvolvingmeasuringwith only the long

side of the rectangle(TR problem).

My originalgoal thatmotivatedtherectangleslessonwas for my studentsto under-

standthe evaluationof the areaof a rectangleas a multiplicativerelationshipbetween

the linearmeasuresof the sides.Forme, as I beganinstruction,suchanunderstanding

involved connectingan understandingof multiplication-as-repeated-addition with

thenotionof identicalrowsof unitsof areaandunderstanding therelationshipbetween

linearunits andareaunits.The latterconceptwas representedby the issue of turn-

ing the rectangleto measure-I had not unpackedthis understandingfurther.

The classroomdiscussion,however,pushedme to reexaminethese understand-

ings andto furtherelaboratemy mapof the conceptualterrain.(Theuse of the term

"map"in this contextis meantto emphasizethatthe teacher'sunderstandingsserve

as a map as he engages in makingsense of students'understandingsandidentifies

potentiallearnings.)The students'misanticipationof the areaunit (assumptionthat

the areawould necessarilybe measuredin termsof cardboardrectangles)led me

to explorethe importanceof anticipatingan appropriateunit. Anticipatingthe area

unit seemed to involve both an anticipationof the organizationof the units, a rec-

tangulararray,and an understandingthatthe linearunitsdefine the size and shape

of the unitswithinthatarray.(Fora fullerdiscussion,see Simon & Blume, 1994b.)

Themultiplicative therefore,involvedthecoordination

relationship, of thelinearunits

to determine an area unit within an anticipatedrectangulararray.What I had

observedin my studentshad changedbothmy perspectiveon my students'knowl-

edge and my perspective on the mathematicalconcepts involved (my internal

map).This reorganizationof my perspectivesled to a modificationof my goals, my

plansfor learningactivities,andthe students'learningandthinkingthatI anticipated.

MartinA. Simon 135

TheMathematicsTeachingCycle

The analysis of these teaching episodes has led to the development of the

MathematicsTeaching Cycle (Figure 4) as a schematic model of the cyclical

interrelationshipof aspectsof teacherknowledge, thinking,decision making,and

activity that seems to be demonstratedby the data.

The threeepisodes createa pictureof a teacherwhose teachingis directedby his

conceptualgoals for his students,goals thatareconstantlybeing modified.The orig-

inal lesson involving the rectangleson the table was not a randomchoice, nor was

it Chapter1 in someone'stextbook.The goal for anddesignof the lessonwerebased

on relatingtwo factors:the teacher'smathematicalunderstandingandthe teacher's

hypotheses aboutthe students'knowledge. I referto "hypotheses"aboutstudents

knowledge to emphasizethatthe teacherhas no directaccess to students'knowl-

edge. He must infer the natureof the students'understandingsfrom his interpre-

tations of his students' behaviors, based on his own schemata with respect to

mathematics,learning,students,and so on. It is implied thatthe teachercan com-

parehis understandingof a particularconcept to his constructionof the students'

understandings,not to the students'"actual"understandings.

As the teacher,my perceptionof students'mathematicalunderstandingsis struc-

turedby my understandings of themathematics in question.Conversely,whatI observe

in the students'mathematicalthinkingaffects my understandingof the mathemat-

ical ideasinvolvedandtheirinterconnections. Thesetwo factorsareinteractivespheres

of a teacher'sthinking(Ball's, 1993, "bifocalperspective"discussedearlier).

Steffe (1990) states,

Usingtheirownmathematical knowledge,mathematicsteachersmustinterpret

thelan-

guageandactionsof theirstudents

andthenmakedecisionsaboutpossiblemathematical

knowledgetheirstudentsmightlearn.(p. 395)

The teacher's learning goal provides a direction for a hypothetical learning

trajectory.6I use the term"hypotheticallearningtrajectory"to referto the teacher's

prediction as to the path by which learning might proceed. It is hypothetical

becausethe actuallearningtrajectoryis not knowablein advance.It characterizesan

expected tendency. Individual students' learning proceeds along idiosyncratic,

althoughoftensimilar,paths.Thisassumesthatanindividual'slearninghas somereg-

ularityto it (cf. Steffe,et al., 1983,p. 118),thatthe classroomcommunityconstrains

mathematicalactivityoftenin predictableways, andthatmanyof the studentsin the

same class canbenefitfromthe samemathematicaltask.A hypotheticallearningtra-

jectoryprovidestheteacherwitha rationaleforchoosinga particular instructional

design;

thus,I makemy designdecisionsbasedon my best guess of how learningmightpro-

ceed.Thiscanbe seenin thethinkingandplanningthatprecededmy instructional inter-

ventionsin eachof the teachingsituationsdescribedas well as the spontaneousdeci-

sions thatI madein responseto students'thinking.

ratherthantraditionalterminology,to emphasize

aspectsof teacherthinkingthataregroundedin a constructivistperspectiveandthatarecommonto both

advancedplanningand spontaneousdecision making.

136 ReconstructingMathematicsPedagogy

ing goal thatdefinesthe direction,the learningactivities,andthehypotheticallearn-

ing process-a predictionof how the students'thinkingandunderstanding will evolve

in the context of the learningactivities.The creationandongoing modificationof

thehypotheticallearningtrajectory is thecentralpieceof themodelthatis diagrammed

in Figure4. The notionof a hypotheticallearningtrajectoryis not meantto suggest

thatthe teacheralwayspursuesone goal at a time or thatonly one trajectoryis con-

sidered.Rather,it is meantto underscorethe importanceof havinga goal andratio-

nale for teachingdecisions andthe hypotheticalnatureof such thinking.Note that

the developmentof a hypotheticallearningprocessandthedevelopmentof thelearn-

ing activitieshave a symbioticrelationship;thegenerationof ideasfor learningactiv-

ities is dependenton the teacher'shypothesesaboutthe developmentof students'

thinking and learning; furthergeneration of hypotheses of student conceptual

developmentdependson the natureof anticipatedactivities.

Hypothetical

Teacher's learningtrajectory

knowledge Teacher's

learninggoal

Teacher'splanfor

learning

activities

Teacher's

hypothesisof

learningprocess

Interactive

constitution

Ae n of of classroom

Assessment activities

students'

knowledge

can perhapsbe clarifiedby the following analogy.Considerthatyou have decided

to sail aroundthe worldin orderto visit places thatyou have never seen. One does

not do this randomly(e.g., go to France,then Hawaii,thenEngland),but neitheris

thereone set itineraryto follow. Rather,you acquireas muchknowledgerelevantto

planningyourjourneyas possible.You thenmakea plan.You may initiallyplanthe

whole tripor only partof it. You set outsailingaccordingto yourplan.However,you

must constantlyadjustbecauseof the conditionsthatyou encounter.You continue

MartinA. Simon 137

thatyou wish to visit. You changeyourplanswith respectto the orderof yourdes-

tinations.You modify the lengthandnatureof yourvisits as a resultof interactions

with people along the way. You add destinations that prior to your trip were

unknownto you. The path that you travel is your "trajectory."The path that you

anticipateat any point in time is your "hypotheticaltrajectory."

The generationof a hypotheticallearningtrajectorypriorto classroominstruction

is theprocessby which(accordingto thismodel)theteacherdevelopsa planforclass-

room activity.However,as the teacherinteractswith andobservesthe students,the

teacherandstudentscollectivelyconstituteanexperience.Thisexperienceby thenature

of its social constitution is different from the one anticipatedby the teacher.

Simultaneouswith andin interactionwith the social constitutionof classroomactiv-

ity is a modificationin the teacher'sideas andknowledgeas he makessense of what

is happeningandwhathas happenedin the classroom.The diagramin Figure4 indi-

cates that the assessment of studentthinking (which goes on continuallyin the

teachingmodelpresented)canbringaboutadaptations in theteacher'sknowledgethat,

in turn,lead to a new or modifiedhypotheticallearningtrajectory.

Figure 5 describes the relationshipamong various domains of teacherknowl-

edge, the hypotheticallearningtrajectory,and the interactionswith students.

knowledgeof learning I hypothesis

mathematics \ trajectory of students'

\, knowledge

Teacher's ]0o

learning

goal

Teacher's theories

,Teacher's/

about mathematics

of I\I\

knowledgeof

knowledge

mathematical Teacher'splan I learning

activitiesand - forlearning and teaching

activties

representations

Teacher's Teacher's

hypothesis knowledgeof

of learning studentlearning

of particular

\ process content

Assessment of

students'

knowledge

of students'knowledge"directly.However,becausethis was not the emphasisof the model, andin order

to simplify the diagram,those arrowsare not included.)

138 ReconstructingMathematicsPedagogy

actionwith the teacher'shypothesesaboutthe students'mathematicalknowledge

contributeto the identificationof a learninggoal. These domainsof knowledge,the

learninggoal,andtheteacher'sknowledgeof mathematical activitiesandrepresentation,

his knowledgeof students'learningof particular content,as well as theteacher'scon-

ceptionsof learningandteaching(bothwithinmathematicsandin general)contribute

to the developmentof learningactivitiesand a hypotheticallearningprocess.

The modificationof the hypotheticallearningtrajectoryis not somethingthatonly

occursduringplanningbetweenclasses.Theteacheris continuallyengagedin adjust-

ing the learningtrajectorythathe has hypothesizedto betterreflect his enhanced

knowledge.Sometimesfine tuningis in order,while at othertimes the whole thrust

of the lesson must be discardedin favor of a more appropriateone. Regardlessof

theextentof modification,changesmaybe madeat anyor all of thethreecomponents

of the hypotheticallearningtrajectory:the goal, the activities,or the hypothetical

learningprocess.

Each of the threeteaching situationsportraysparticularaspects of what teach-

ing, which embodies reformprinciples,might be like. I discuss a few of these in

this section.

The original rectangles problem was planned for one or two class periods;

instead,eightperiodswerespenton themathematicsthatwas generated.Experienced

teachersmight affirmthatit is difficult to determinein advanceexactly how long

concept.However,thediscrepancy

it will taketo teacha particular betweentheamount

of timeanticipatedandthe amountof timespentin thiscase is well beyondtheimpre-

cisionof planning.Thisdiscrepancypointsat theexperimentalnatureof mathematics

teaching."Experimental"denotes the ongoing cycle of hypothesisgeneration(or

modification)and datacollection thatcharacterizesthe teachingportrayed.

In the firstsituation,involvingthe tiling of the tables,I, as the teacher,perceived

a lackof understanding amonga majorityof the studentsof the relationshipbetween

length-times-width the countingof all the rectangleson the table.My response

and

was to pose additionalproblemsbasedon students'conceptualdifficultiesthatI had

witnessedin thepast.I selectedthoughtprocessesthatI thoughtstudentscoulddeter-

mine as not viable, but that would likely be problematicinitially for them to

invalidate.(Rectanglesproblem2 is an example.) My rationalewas thatprevious

students'conceptualdifficulties(fromtheteacher/researcher's perspective)arepoten-

tialdifficultiesformy currentstudentsandrepresent usefulhurdlesforthemto encounter

in the developmentof more powerfulideas.

This approachrepresentsa sharpcontrastto the approachto instructioncharac-

teristicof traditionalmathematicsinstructionandrepresentedby mathematicstext-

books. Traditionalinstructiontendsto focus on one skill or idea at a time andthen

provideconsiderableroutinepracticeto "reinforce"thatlearning.The mathematics

is subdividedinto smallsegmentsfor instructionso thatstudentscan experiencesuc-

cess on a regularbasis. In contrast,Situation1 demonstratesa view of learningas

MartinA. Simon 139

by challengingthe learner'sconceptionsusing a varietyof contexts. The teacher

can be comparedto an athleticcoach who employs a varietyof practiceactivities

thatchallengethe athletes'strengthandskill, often beyond whatis requiredof the

athlete in competition (dribbling two basketballs while blindfolded, playing a

soccer game whereeach playermay not touchthe ball two consecutivetimes, per-

forminga figure skatingprogramthreetimes in a row with only a 2-minuterest in

between).These activitiesarenot aimedat constantsuccess, butratherat increased

competence. Growthis a result of challenge to body and mind. Conceptualdiffi-

culties thatI have previouslyobservedin studentsarenot to be avoided;rather,they

provideparticularchallenges, which if surmountedby the students,resultin con-

ceptualgrowth.ThisfitswithFrenchresearchers' notionof "obstaclesepistemologiques"

(Bachelard,1938, cited in Brousseau, 1983), thatovercomingcertainobstacles is

a naturaland essential part of conceptual development. These obstacles are a

resultof priorconceptsthat,althoughadaptivein earliercontexts,aremaladaptive

given the demandsof the currentproblemsituation.

A secondfeatureof the approachseen in Situation1 is subtler.As a teacher,I often

do not have a well-developed map of the mathematicalconceptualareain which

I am engaging my students;thatis, I may not have fully articulatedfor myself (or

foundin the literature)the specific connectionsthatconstituteunderstandingor the

natureof developmentof understandingin thatarea.Rather,as was the case when

I started the rectangles instructionalunit, my knowledge of what it means to

understandthe particularconceptmay be carriedin partby particularproblemsit-

uations.The kindsof difficultiesthatstudentsencounterprovideme with key pieces

of what it means to understand.Thus, in such cases, my operationaldefinitionof

understandingis the ability to overcome these particulardifficulties; I may not

have unpackedthe difficulties in orderto understandthe conceptual issues that

are implicated. Thus, even if I do not have a thoroughknowledge of what con-

stitutes mathematicalunderstandingin a particulardomain, having a rich set of

problem situationsthat challenge studentsand having knowledge of conceptual

difficultiesthatthey typicallyencounterprovideme with an approximationthatlets

me be reasonablyeffective in promotinglearningin the absenceof moreelaborated

knowledge.(Thisis not to suggestthatthe moreelaboratedunderstanding wouldnot

be morepowerful.)Indeed,engagingstudentsin these problemsituationsandwith

theseconceptualdifficultiesgives me an opportunityto learnmoreaboutwhatit means

to understandthe conceptsinvolved.

UnderlyingSituation2 is an idea thathighlights a differencebetween teaching

based on a traditionalview of learningand teachingbased on a constructivistper-

spective.Ratherthan"review"whatis meantby areaor assign"practiceproblems,"

my approachwas to challengethe studentsin a way thatmightpushthemto extend

their conceptions of area.The review-and-practiceapproachis based on learning

as improvingstorageandretrievalof receivedinformation.(AlthoughI am notnegat-

ing the importanceof memory,I contendthatit is not whatis most important,most

interesting,andmost problematicfor educatorsin the domainof mathematics.)My

140 ReconstructingMathematicsPedagogy

ideasthatis furtherelaboratedas the understanding is used to solve novel problems.

Situation3 was the most difficultto analyze.I broughtto the teachingsituations

a view thatlearningis triggeredby disequilibrium.When the studentswere con-

vinced thatthe rotatedrectanglemethodof measuringandcalculatingprovidedno

usefulinformation aboutthetable,I triedin everywayI couldto provokedisequilibrium,

but to no avail. In-depthanalysisof the datasuggeststhatmy interpretations of the

students'thinkingthatled to theirconclusionwas notadequate.WhereasI hadthought

thatthey saw my methodas countingthe numberof overlappingrectangles,I now

believe that they were saying that the method involving turning the rectangle

countednothingbecausein the processI was overlappingthe rectangles.This sub-

tle differencein thinkingmay accountfor my inabilityto foster disequilibrium.

Havingfailedto promotedisequilibrium,I embarkedintuitivelyon anotherstrat-

egy. I backedawayfromtheparticularproblemto tryto focus on a partof theunder-

standingdemandedby theproblem.A posteriori analysissuggeststhatwhatI was doing

was fosteringthe developmentof knowledgethat,whenthe studentsreturnedto that

problem,mightcontributeto thestudents'experiencingcognitiveconflict.In thiscase,

if I couldhelp studentsbuildan understanding of therelationshipbetweenlinearand

areameasuresof a rectangle,theywouldthenexperiencea conflictbetweenthoseunder-

standingsandthe expectationthatmeasuringwith the cardboardrectangleresulted

in a measurement wherethatrectanglewas theunitof area.Thisteachingepisodeseems

to emphasizethatdisequilibriumis not createdby the teacher.He can tryto promote

disequilibrium. However,the successof sucheffortsis in partdeterminedby the ade-

quacyof his modelof students'understanding. It also seemsto supportthenotionthat

learningdoes notproceedlinearly.Rather,thereseem to be multiplesitesin one'sweb

of understandingson which learningcan build.

IN SUMMARY

Constructivist views of learninghave provideda theoreticalfoundationfor mathe-

maticseducationresearchanda frameworkwithinwhichteacherscanunderstand their

students.However,constructivism alsoposesa challengeto themathematics education

communityto developmodelsof teachingthatbuildon, andareconsistentwith,this

theoretical Small-group

perspective. interaction,nonroutineproblemsolving,andmanip-

ulativematerialscanbe valuabletools in the handsof mathematicsteachers.Yet the

abilityto use thesetools is not sufficientto allow teachersto be the architectsof pro-

ductive learning situationsresulting in conceptual growth. Theoreticallybased

frameworksfor teachinghave the potentialto guide the use of these tools.

By what means can a teacher help students to develop new, more powerful

mathematicalconcepts?Novice teachers,who want theirstudentsto "construct"a

particularidea,oftenaskfortheideafromtheirstudents,consciouslyor unconsciously

hoping thatat leastone studentwill be able to explainit to the others(Simon, 1991).

Such an approachdoes not deal with a key question:If a groupof studentsdo not

have a particularconcept,how does a teacherworkwith themto fostertheirdevel-

opment of that concept?

MartinA. Simon 141

effective meansof promotingconceptdevelopment)arethe posing of problemsor

tasksandthe encouragementof reflection.The dataanalysisdescribedin thispaper

andthe resultingMathematicsTeachingCycle addressthe issue of the processby

which a teachercan makedecisionsas to the content,design,andsequenceof math-

ematicaltasks.The modelemphasizesthe importantinterplaybetweenthe teacher's

plans andthe teacherand students'collective constitutionof classroomactivities.

The formerinvolves creationof instructionalgoals andhypothesesabouthow stu-

dentsmightmove towardsthose goals as a resultof theircollective engagementin

particularmathematicaltasks.However,the teacher'sgoals,hypothesesaboutlearn-

ing, anddesignof activitieschangecontinuallyas theteacher'sown knowledgechanges

as a result of being involved in the cultureof the mathematicsclassroom.

A goalstructureformathematics educationsuchastheoneelaboratedbyTreffers (1987)

is neededin specifyingpossiblelearningenvironments by teachers.Butthiselement

of possiblelearning

environments isjustasdependentontheexperiential

fieldsthatcon-

stitutelearningenvironments as thelatteraredependenton theformer.Mathematics

educators shouldnottaketheirgoalsformathematicseducationasfixedidealsthatstand

uninfluenced by theirteachingexperiences.Goalstructuresthatareestablishedprior

to experienceareonlystartingpointsandmustundergoexperiential transformation in

actuallearningandteachingepisodes.(Steffe,1991,p. 192)

Steffe's commentsseem to underscorethe cyclical natureof this teachingprocess.

The MathematicsTeachingCycle portraysa view of teacherdecisionmakingwith

respect to content and tasks thathas been shapedby the meeting of a social con-

structivistperspectivewith the challenges of the mathematicsclassroom.Several

themes areparticularlyimportantin the approachto decision makingrepresented

by this model.

1. Students'thinkingandunderstanding is takenseriouslyandgiven a centralplace

in the design and implementationof instruction(consistent with Steffe, 1991).

Understandingstudents' thinking is a continual process of data collection and

hypothesisgeneration.

2. The teacher'sknowledgeevolves simultaneouslywiththe growthin the students'

knowledge.As the studentsarelearningmathematics,the teacheris learningabout

mathematics,learning,teaching,andaboutthe mathematicalthinkingof his students.

3. Planningfor instructionis seen as includingthe generationof a hypothetical

learningtrajectory.This view acknowledgesandvalues the goals of the teacherfor

instructionandtheimportanceof hypothesesaboutstudents'learningprocesses(ideas

thatI hope I have demonstratedare not in conflict with constructivism).

4. The continuallychangingknowledge of the teacher(see #2) createscontinual

change in the teacher'shypotheticallearningtrajectory.

These last two points addressdirectlythe questionraisedearlierin the paperof

balancebetween direction(some may call this "structure")andresponsivenessto

students,a creativetensionthatshapesmathematicsteaching.The model suggests

that, as mathematicsteachers, we strive to be purposeful in our planning and

actions, yet flexible in our goals and expectations.

142 ReconstructingMathematicsPedagogy

studentsandassessingtheirunderstanding.However,the emphasison anticipating

students' learning processes is not developed by most currentdescriptions of

reformin mathematicsteaching.Researchon how studentsdevelopparticularmath-

ematicalknowledge (cf. Steffe, et al., 1983, see pp. 118 & 135; Thompson,1994)

informssuch anticipation.Perhapsone explanationfor the success of Cognitively

Guided Instruction(Carpenter,Fennema, Peterson, & Carey, 1988), in which

teacherslearnedaboutresearchon children'sthinking(Carpenter& Moser, 1983),

is thatit increasedteachers'abilityto anticipatechildren'slearningprocesses.Ball

(1993) articulatesa similarposition emphasizingthe role of teachers'hypotheses

aboutstudentlearning."Selectionof representational contextsinvolves conjectures

aboutteachingandlearning,foundedon the evolving insightsaboutthe children's

thinkingand [theteacher's]deepeningunderstandingof the mathematics"(p. 166).

The datafromthis studymustbe seen in its particularcontext.The teachingprac-

tice was embedded in a teacher education program;the mathematicsstudents

wereprospectiveelementarystudents.As the teacher,I felt no pressureto teachfrom

a presetcurriculumnor to cover particularmathematicalcontent,a conditionthat

is probablythe exceptionratherthantherulefor mathematicsteachers.Mathematics

teachingwithotherpopulations Researchin other

involvesa setof differentconstraints.

contextswill informus aboutthedegreeof contextdependenceof theideasgenerated.

A possible contributionthatcan be made by the analysis of dataand the result-

ing model reportedon in this paperis to encourageotherresearchersto examine

teachers'"theoremsin action"andto maketeachers'assumptions,beliefs,andemerg-

ing theoriesaboutteachingexplicit.At theminimum,thepapershouldserveto empha-

size the need for models of mathematicsteachingthatareconsistentwith, andbuilt

on, emergingtheoriesof learning.Muchresearchremainsto be done to understand

the implicationsfor practiceof teachersholdingconstructivistperspectives.It is the

recognitionthatconstructivism doesnottellus how to teachthatwill motivateincreased

work in this area.

A well-developedconceptionof mathematicsteachingis as vital to mathematics

teachereducatorsas well-developedconceptionsof mathematicsareto mathematics

teachers. Informeddecisions in each case are dependenton a clear sense of the

natureof the contentbeing taught.Consideringthe MathematicsTeaching Cycle

as a way to think aboutmathematicsteachingmeans that teacherswould need to

develop abilities beyond those alreadycurrentlyfocused on in mathematicsedu-

cation reform, particularlythe ability to generate hypotheses about students'

understandings(whichgoes beyondsolicitingandattendingto students'thinking),

the ability to generatehypotheticallearningtrajectories,and the ability to engage

in conceptualanalysisrelatedto the mathematicsthattheyteach.This lastpointsup-

portsproposedreformsof mathematicsfor teachers(cf. Cipra, 1992; Committee

on the MathematicalEducationof Teachers,1991) andsupportsargumentsthatthe

mathematicalpreparationof teachersis farfrom adequateif teachersareto engage

in pedagogicaldeliberationsas characterizedin this paper.

Finally, it shouldbe noted thatthe role of the mathematicsteacheras portrayed

in this paper is a very demanding one. Teachers will need access to relevant

MartinA. Simon 143

researchon children'smathematicalthinking,innovativecurriculummaterials,and

ongoing professionalsupportin orderto meet the demandsof this role.

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AUTHOR

MARTINA. SIMON,Associate Professor,PennsylvaniaStateUniversity,Departmentof Curriculum

and Instruction,ChambersBuilding, 176, UniversityPark,PA 16802

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