Publication 2950

Ellerton N. F. & Clements M. A. (1992) Some pluses and minuses of radical constructivism in mathematics education. Mathematics Education Research Journal 4(2): 1–22. Fulltext at http://cepa.info/2950
A brief overview of the radical constructivist movement in mathematics education, as it has expressed itself around the world over the past ten years, is provided. Three benefits of the movement are then identified, namely: (a) its emphasis on the need for learners to construct their own mathematical meanings, and thereby come to believe that they “own” the mathematics they are learning; (b) its recognition and advocacy of quality social interaction as the basis for quality mathematics learning; and (c) its identification, clarification, and advocacy of principles for improving mathematics teaching and learning. Three weaknesses that might be associated with the radical constructivist movement are also outlined: (a) the missionary zeal of some radical constructivists who tend to accuse mathematics educators outside their ranks of advocating and practising transmission modes of education; (b) the downplaying of the role of linguistic activity in the development of abstract thought by many radical constructivists; and (c) the tendency of radical constructivists to provide oversimplified answers to the ontological question “What is mathematical knowledge? "

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