Borg P., Hewitt D. & Jones I. (2016) Negotiating Between Learner and Mathematics: A Conceptual Framework to Analyze Teacher Sensitivity Toward Constructivism in a Mathematics Classroom. Constructivist Foundations 12(1): 59–69. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/3810

Context: Constructivist teachers who find themselves working within an educational system that adopts a realist epistemology, may find themselves at odds with their own beliefs when they catch themselves paying closer attention to the knowledge authorities intend them to teach rather than the knowledge being constructed by their learners. Method: In the preliminary analysis of the mathematical learning of six low-performing Year 7 boys in a Maltese secondary school, whom one of us taught during the scholastic year 2014-15, we constructed a conceptual framework which would help us analyze the extent to which he managed to be sensitive to constructivism in a typical classroom setting. We describe the development of the framework M-N-L (Mathematics-Negotiation-Learner) as a viable analytical tool to search for significant moments in the lessons in which the teacher appeared to engage in what we define as “constructivist teaching” (CT) during mathematics lessons. The development of M-N-L is part of a research program investigating the way low-performing students make mathematical sense of new notation with the help of the software Grid Algebra. Results: M-N-L was found to be an effective instrument which helped to determine the extent to which the teacher was sensitive to his own constructivist beliefs while trying to negotiate a balance between the mathematical concepts he was expected to teach and the conceptual constructions of his students. Implications: One major implication is that it is indeed possible for mathematics teachers to be sensitive to the individual constructions of their learners without losing sight of the concepts that society, represented by curriculum planners, deems necessary for students to learn. The other is that researchers in the field of education may find M-N-L a helpful tool to analyze CT during typical didactical situations established in classroom settings.

Cifarelli V. V. & Sevim V. (2014) Examining the Role of Re-Presentation in Mathematical Problem Solving: An Application of Ernst von Glasersfeld’s Conceptual Analysis. Constructivist Foundations 9(3): 360–369. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/1093

Context: The paper utilizes a conceptual analysis to examine the development of abstract conceptual structures in mathematical problem solving. In so doing, we address two questions: 1. How have the ideas of RC influenced our own educational theory? and 2. How has our application of the ideas of RC helped to improve our understanding of the connection between teaching practice and students’ learning processes? Problem: The paper documents how Ernst von Glasersfeld’s view of mental representation can be illustrated in the context of mathematical problem solving and used to explain the development of conceptual structure in mathematical problem solving. We focus on how acts of mental re‑presentation play a vital role in the gradual internalization and interiorization of solution activity. Method: A conceptual analysis of the actions of a college student solving a set of algebra problems was conducted. We focus on the student’s problem solving actions, particularly her emerging and developing reflections about her solution activity. The interview was videotaped and written transcripts of the solver’s verbal responses were prepared. Results: The analysis of the solver’s solution activity focused on identifying and describing her cognitive actions in resolving genuinely problematic situations that she faced while solving the tasks. The results of the analysis included a description of the increasingly abstract levels of conceptual knowledge demonstrated by the solver. Implications: The results suggest a framework for an explanation of problem solving that is activity-based, and consistent with von Glasersfeld’s radical constructivist view of knowledge. The impact of von Glasersfeld’s ideas in mathematics education is discussed.

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 https://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? "

Riegler A. & Steffe L. P. (2014) “What Is the Teacher Trying to Teach Students if They Are All Busy Constructing Their Own Private Worlds?”: Introduction to the Special Issue. Constructivist Foundations 9(3): 297–301. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/1076

Context: Ernst von Glasersfeld introduced radical constructivism in 1974 as a new interpretation of Jean Piaget’s constructivism to give new meanings to the notions of knowledge, communication, and reality. He also claimed that RC would affect traditional theories of education. Problem: After 40 years it has become necessary to review and evaluate von Glasersfeld’s claim. Also, has RC been successful in taking the “social turn” in educational research, or is it unable to go beyond “private worlds? Method: We provide an overview of contributed articles that were written with the aim of showing whether RC has an impact on educational research, and we discuss three core issues: Can RC account for inter-individual aspects? Is RC a theory of learning? And should Piaget be regarded as a radical constructivist? Results: We argue that the contributed papers demonstrate the efficiency of the application of RC to educational research and practice. Our argumentation also shows that in RC it would be misleading to claim a dichotomy between cognition and social interaction (rather, social constructivism is a radical constructivism), that RC does not contain a theory of mathematics learning any more or less than it contains a theory of mathematics teaching, and that Piaget should not be considered a mere trivial constructivist. Implications: Still one of the most challenging influences on educational research and practice, RC is ready to embark on many further questions, including its relationship with other constructivist paradigms, and to make progress in the social dimension.

Simon M. A. (1995) Reconstructing mathematics pedagogy from a constructivist perspective. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education 26(2): 114–145. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/3671

Constructivist theory has been prominent in recent research on mathematics learning and has provided a basis for recent mathematics education reform efforts. Although constructivism has the potential to inform changes in mathematics teaching, it offers no particular vision of how mathematics should be taught; models of teaching based on constructivism are needed. Data are presented from a whole-class, constructivist teaching experiment in which problems of teaching practice required the teacher/researcher to explore the pedagogical implications of his theoretical (constructivist) perspectives. The analysis of the data led to the development of a model of teacher decision making with respect to mathematical tasks. Central to this model is the creative tension between the teacher’s goals with regard to student learning and his responsibility to be sensitive and responsive to the mathematical thinking of the students.

Steffe L. P. (1991) The constructivist teaching experiment: Illustrations and implications. In: Glasersfeld E. von (ed.) Radical constructivism in mathematics education. Kluwer, Dordrecht: 177–194. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/2098

In an epistemology where mathematics teaching is viewed as goal-directed interactive communication in a consensual domain of experience, mathematics learning is viewed as reflective abstraction in the context of scheme theory. In this view, mathematical knowledge is understood as coordinated schemes of action and operation. Consequently, research methodology has to be designed as a flexible, investigative tool. The constructivist teaching experiment is a technique that was designed to investigate children’s mathematical knowledge and how it might be learned in the context of mathematics teaching (Cobb & Steffe, 1983; Hunting, 1983; Steffe, 1984). In a teaching experiment, the role of the researcher changes from an observer who intends to establish objective scientific facts to an actor who intends to construct models that are relative to his or her own actions.

Steffe L. P. & Ulrich C. (2013) Constructivist teaching experiment. In: Lerman S. (ed.) Encyclopedia of mathematics education. Springer, Berlin: 102–109. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/2959

In an epistemology where mathematics teaching is viewed as goal-directed interactive communication in a consensual domain of experience, mathematics learning is viewed as reflective abstraction in the context of scheme theory. In this view, mathematical knowledge is understood as coordinated schemes of action and operation. Consequently, research methodology has to be designed as a flexible, investigative tool. The constructivist teaching experiment is a technique that was designed to investigate children’s mathematical knowledge it might be learned in the context of mathematics teaching (Cobb & Steffe, 1983; Hunting, 1983; Steffe, 1984). In a teaching experiment, the role of the researcher changes from an observer who intends to establish objective scientific facts to an actor who intends to construct models that are relative to his or her own actions.

Wright B. (1991) An application of the epistemology of radical constructivism to the study of learning. The Australian Educational Researcher 18(1): 75–95. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/5424

This article reports part of a study (Wright 1989b, 1990c, 1988) in which the epistemology of radical constructivism (e.g., von Glasersfeld 1987, in press) was used as a basis for a teaching experiment which involved an investigation of the mathematics learning of young children. The research methodology adopted for the study has been expounded by Cobb and Steffe (e.g. Cobb & Steffe 1983; Steffe & Cobb 1988) and, according to Sinclair, is “methodologically… original, … [and] longitudinal but not naturalistic” (1988: v). Further, the methodology is hermeneutic rather than positivistic (Candy 1989: 2–3), has much in common with phenomenographic approaches (e.g., Marton 1981, 1987; Neuman 1987) and, as Hockings advocates when describing insights for educational researchers from the science of chaos, “has [moved] away from a reductionist approach to knowledge and [works] across discipline boundaries” (1990: 17). The article begins by briefly reviewing recent developments in K-6 mathematics in order to demonstrate, in general terms, the compelling need for research into mathematics learning.