Mathematics in a child-centred curriculum

Constructivism - part 2

Through discussion the child becomes aware of the characteristics of a task. He/she must be encouraged to use the correct vocabulary needed for a particular task. Young children are egocentric, and it is through social interaction that they can begin to appreciate the points of view of other people. Sequences of instruction involve discussion, hands-on experience and practical exploration. As adults we expect objects to behave in a stable and predictable manner. Children have to learn to recognise these attributes. They need to handle and use a variety of objects in order to form their own rules and structures for dealing with the world. This is of particular importance in mathematics.

Children need to work out when to use a particular plan, what they want to achieve and the actual procedure needed to complete the task. Through experiencing many different types of problems they become more efficient. The wider the range of problems they encounter the more likely they are to generalise the rules and use them in new situations.

While direct instruction is very important in mathematics, children also need to develop their own learning strategies. We need to teach children to look at how they arrived at a result rather than just concentrating on the answer as an end in itself.

Children need training in the skills of collaboration and co-operation, in listening to, accepting and evaluating the views of others. These skills are applicable throughout the curriculum. Work on open-ended problems, where the emphasis is placed on using skills and discussion rather than seeking a unique solution, is recommended. Many methods may be used in solving a mathematical task.