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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School
for easier counting. Finally, the third set of lessons used only numbers and arithmetic symbols to represent problems. Throughout the lessons, students were challenged to explain their answers and to rely on their arguments, rather than to rely on the teacher or book for verification of correctness. An example serves to highlight this approach; see Box 7.2.
Lampert (1986:337) concludes:
…students used principled knowledge that was tied to the language of groups to explain what they were seeing. They were able to talk meaningfully about place value and order of operations to give legitimacy to procedures and to reason about their outcomes, even though they did not use technical terms to do so. I took their experimentations and arguments as evidence that they had come to see mathematics as more than a set of procedures for finding answers.
Clearly, her own deep understanding of mathematics comes into play as she teaches these lessons. It is worth noting that her goal of helping students see what is mathematically legitimate shapes the way in which she designs lessons to develop students’ understanding of two-digit multiplication.
Understanding Negative Numbers
Helping third-grade students extend their understanding of numbers from the natural numbers to the integers is a challenge undertaken by another teacher-researcher. Deborah Ball’s work provides another snapshot of teaching that draws on extensive subject content and pedagogical content knowledge. Her goals in instruction include “developing a practice that respects the integrity both of mathematics as a discipline and of children as mathematical thinkers” (Ball, 1993). That is, she not only takes into account what the important mathematical ideas are, but also how children think about the particular area of mathematics on which she is focusing. She draws on both her understanding of the integers as mathematical entities (subject-matter knowledge) and her extensive pedagogical content knowledge specifically about integers. Like Lampert, Ball’s goals go beyond the boundaries of what is typically considered mathematics and include developing a culture in which students conjecture, experiment, build arguments, and frame and solve problems—the work of mathematicians.
Deborah Ball’s description of work highlights the importance and difficulty of figuring out powerful and effective ways to represent key mathematical ideas to children (see Ball, 1993). A wealth of possible models for negative numbers exists and she reviewed a number of them—magic peanuts, money, game scoring, a frog on a number line, buildings with floors above and below ground. She decided to use the building model first and money later: she was acutely aware of the strengths and limitations of each