may select a solution that is more sophisticated than most students have used in order to provide an opportunity for students to see the benefits of such a strategy. Both the presentations of solutions and the class discussions that follow provide her with information about what her students know and what problems she should use with them next.

Annie Keith’s strong belief that children need to construct their understanding of mathematical ideas by building on what they already know guides her instructional decisions. She forms hypotheses about what her students understand and selects instructional activities based on these hypotheses. She modifies her instruction as she gathers additional information about her students and compares it with the mathematics she wants them to learn. Her instructional decisions give her clear diagnoses of individual students’ current state of understanding. Her approach is not a free-for-all without teacher guidance: rather, it is instruction that builds on students’ understandings and is carefully orchestrated by the teacher, who is aware of what is mathematically important and also what is important to the learner’s progress.

Model-Based Reasoning

Some attempts to revitalize mathematics instruction have emphasized the importance of modeling phenomena. Work on modeling can be done from kindergarten through twelth grade (K–12). Modeling involves cycles of model construction, model evaluation, and model revision. It is central to professional practice in many disciplines, such as mathematics and science, but it is largely missing from school instruction. Modeling practices are ubiquitous and diverse, ranging from the construction of physical models, such as a planetarium or a model of the human vascular system, to the development of abstract symbol systems, exemplified by the mathematics of algebra, geometry, and calculus. The ubiquity and diversity of models in these disciplines suggest that modeling can help students develop understanding about a wide range of important ideas. Modeling practices can and should be fostered at every age and grade level (Clement, 1989; Hestenes, 1992; Lehrer and Romberg, 1996a, b; Schauble et al., 1995; see Box 7.3).

Taking a model-based approach to a problem entails inventing (or selecting) a model, exploring the qualities of the model, and then applying the model to answer a question of interest. For example, the geometry of triangles has an internal logic and also has predictive power for phenomena ranging from optics to wayfinding (as in navigational systems) to laying floor tile. Modeling emphasizes a need for forms of mathematics that are typically underrepresented in the standard curriculum, such as spatial visualization and geometry, data structure, measurement, and uncertainty. For example, the scientific study of animal behavior, like bird foraging, is se-



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement