Teaching Children to be Mathematicians vs. Teaching About Mathematics

Unknown author (1971-07-01)

Being a mathematician is no more definable as 'knowing' a set of mathematical facts than being a poet is definable as knowing a set of linguistic facts. Some modern math ed reformers will give this statement a too easy assent with the comment: 'Yes, they must understand, not merely know.' But this misses the capital point that being a mathematician, again like being a poet, or a composer or an engineer, means doing, rather than knowing or understanding. This essay is an attempt to explore some ways in which one might be able to put children in a better position to do mathematics rather than merely to learn about it.