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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School
vidual children in their classrooms think about the topic (Carpenter and Fennema, 1992; Carpenter et al., 1996; Fennema et al., 1996). Teachers, it is claimed, will use their knowledge to make appropriate instructional decisions to assist students to construct their mathematical knowledge. In this approach, the idea of domains of knowledge for teaching (Shulman, 1986) is extended to include teachers’ knowledge of individual learners in their classrooms.
Cognitively guided instruction is used by Annie Keith, who teaches a combination first- and second-grade class in an elementary school in Madison Wisconsin (Hiebert et al., 1997). Her instructional practices are an example of what is possible when a teacher understands children’s thinking and uses that understanding to guide her teaching. A portrait of Ms. Keith’s classroom reveals also how her knowledge of mathematics and pedagogy influence her instructional decisions.
Word problems form the basis for almost all instruction in Annie Keith’s classroom. Students spend a great deal of time discussing alternative strategies with each other, in groups, and as a whole class. The teacher often participates in these discussions but almost never demonstrates the solution to problems. Important ideas in mathematics are developed as students explore solutions to problems, rather than being a focus of instruction per se. For example, place-value concepts are developed as students use base-10 materials, such as base-10 blocks and counting frames, to solve word problems involving multidigit numbers.
Mathematics instruction in Annie Keith’s class takes place in a number of different settings. Everyday first-grade and second-grade activities, such as sharing snacks, lunch count, and attendance, regularly serve as contexts for problem-solving tasks. Mathematics lessons frequently make use of math centers in which the students do a variety of activities. On any given day, children at one center may solve word problems presented by the teacher while at another center children write word problems to present to the class later or play a math game.
She continually challenges her students to think and to try to make sense of what they are doing in math. She uses the activities as opportunities for her to learn what individual students know and understand about mathematics. As students work in groups to solve problems, she observes the various solutions and mentally makes notes about which students should present their work: she wants a variety of solutions presented so that students will have an opportunity to learn from each other. Her knowledge of the important ideas in mathematics serves as one framework for the selection process, but her understanding of how children think about the mathematical ideas they are using also affects her decisions about who should present. She might select a solution that is actually incorrect to be presented so that she can initiate a discussion of a common misconception. Or she