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With an Eye on the Mathematical Horizon: Dilemmas of Teaching Elementary School Mathematics

Deborah Loewenberg Ball
The Elementary School Journal
Vol. 93, No. 4 (Mar., 1993), pp. 373-397
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1002018
Page Count: 25
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With an Eye on the Mathematical Horizon: Dilemmas of Teaching Elementary School Mathematics
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Abstract

Ideas like "understanding," "authenticity," and "community" are central in current debates about curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Many believe that teaching and learning would be improved if classrooms were organized to engage students in authentic tasks, guided by teachers with deep disciplinary understandings. Students would conjecture, experiment, and make arguments; they would frame and solve problems; and they would read, write, and create things that mattered to them. This article examines the challenge of creating classroom practices in the spirit of these ideals. With a window on her own teaching of elementary school mathematics, the author presents three dilemmas-of content, discourse, and community-that arise in trying to teach in ways that are, in Bruner's terms, "intellectually honest." These dilemmas arise reasonably from competing and worth-while aims and from the uncertainties inherent in striving to attain them. The article traces and explores the author's framing of and response to these dilemmas, providing a view of the pedagogical complexities that underlie current educational visions and the conditions needed to work toward them.

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