Publication 2975

Lerman S. (1989) Constructivism, mathematics and mathematics education. Educational Studies in Mathematics 20(2): 211–223. Fulltext at
Learning theories such as behaviourism, Piagetian theories and cognitive psychology, have been dominant influences in education this century. This article discusses and supports the recent claim that Constructivism is an alternative paradigm, that has rich and significant consequences for mathematics education. In the United States there is a growing body of published research that claims to demonstrate the distinct nature of the implications of this view. There are, however, many critics who maintain that this is not the case, and that the research is within the current paradigm of cognitive psychology. The nature and tone of the dispute certainly at times appears to describe a paradigm shift in the Kuhnian model. In an attempt to analyse the meaning of Constructivism as a learning theory, and its implications for mathematics education, the use of the term by the intuitionist philosophers of mathematics is compared and contrasted. In particular, it is proposed that Constructivism in learning theory does not bring with it the same ontological commitment as the Intuitionists’ use of the term, and that it is in fact a relativist thesis. Some of the potential consequences for the teaching of mathematics of a relativist view of mathematical knowledge are discussed here.

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