because effective teaching is defined primarily in terms of the learning it supports, we cannot talk about one without talking about the other. Thus when I address each of the three questions raised above, I will at the same time offer preschool and elementary mathematics teachers a set of resources they can use to implement the three principles of How People Learn in their classrooms and, in so doing, create classrooms that are student-centered, knowledge-centered, community-centered, and assessment-centered.
Addressing the three principles of How People Learn while exploring each question occurs quite naturally because the bodies of knowledge that underlie effective mathematics teaching provide a rich set of resources that teachers can use to implement these principles in their classrooms. Thus, when I explore question 1 (Where are we now?) and describe the number knowledge children typically have available to build upon at several specific age levels, I provide a tool (the Number Knowledge test) and a set of examples of age-level thinking that teachers can use to enact Principle 1—eliciting, building upon, and connecting student knowledge—in their classrooms. When I explore question 2 (Where do I want to go?) and describe the knowledge networks that appear to be central to children’s mathematics learning and achievement and the ways these networks are built in the normal course of development, I provide a framework that teachers can use to enact Principle 2—building learning paths and networks of knowledge—in their classrooms. Finally, when I explore question 3 (What is the best way to get there?) and describe elements of a mathematics program that has been effective in helping children acquire whole-number sense, I provide a set of learning tools, design principles, and examples of classroom practice that teachers can use to enact Principle 3—building resourceful, self-regulating mathematical thinkers and problem solvers—in their classrooms. Because the questions I have raised are interrelated, as are the principles themselves, teaching practices that may be effective in answering each question and in promoting each principle are not limited to specific sections of this chapter, but are noted throughout.
I have chosen to highlight the questions themselves in my introduction to this chapter because it was this set of questions that motivated my inquiry into children’s knowledge and learning in the first place. By asking this set of questions every time I sat down to design a math lesson for young children, I was able to push my thinking further and, over time, construct better answers and better lessons. If each math teacher asks this set of questions on a regular basis, each will be able to construct his or her own set of answers for the questions, enrich our knowledge base, and improve mathematics teaching and learning for at least one group of children. By doing so, each teacher will also embody the essence of what it means to be a resourceful, self-regulating mathematics teacher. The questions themselves are thus more important than the answers. But the reverse is also true: