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The role of concrete materials in constructing mathematical meaning education 3-13

Maclellan, Effie (1997) The role of concrete materials in constructing mathematical meaning education 3-13. Education 3-13, 25 (3). pp. 31-35. ISSN 0300-4279

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The emphasis on concretisation in primary school mathematics is largely derived from orthodox and neo-Piagetian theory. Such theory builds on the constructivist assumptions that mathematical knowledge, like all knowledge, is not directly absorbed by the learner from the teacher but is actively constructed by each individual learner. The realisation that for learning to be effective, it had to be active, manifested itself in a veritable explosion of ‘activity methods’ and ‘learning by doing’ in the belief that unless children were physically acting on concrete materials they could not be learning. But the available evidence suggests that concrete materials have effects on learners which are different from what teachers intended. There is therefore a pressing need to develop pedagogical practices which overtake the limitations of concrete materials and allow mathematical meaning to be constructed.