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Working mathematically
Working mathematically

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1.4  The nature of mathematics

Activity 5  The nature of mathematics

Complete the following prompts:

  • Mathematical ideas come from …
  • Mathematics is important in schools because …


The first prompt is often answered in terms of where mathematical ideas in the classroom come from:

  • books (used in classroom), magazines, colleagues, my brain
  • teachers, parents, TV, environment
  • surroundings, books, everyday life
  • human activity, the world around us.

Other answers are more global, such as:

  • within
  • people
  • experience
  • life, anywhere and everywhere.

Reasons given for the importance of mathematics (prompt 2) often portray a more personal view of what mathematics is ‘about’. They include:

  • its beauty and the support it gives to other disciplines
  • it gives a different perspective on things
  • it is cross-curricular and, in general, learners will need some mathematics in the world of work
  • it promotes logical thought and approaches
  • it is involved in so many areas of life
  • it is a type of thinking not experienced in many other subjects, as well as a tool for some
  • it is a language used across the curriculum and it trains disciplined thinking.

Other reasons are more instrumental. Mathematics is important in schools because:

  • it is seen as a measure of academic ability
  • a qualification in mathematics is normally a requirement to enter tertiary education.

When you considered your learning of mathematics, did you see it predominantly as a collection of topics (mathematical content) or as a way of thinking (mathematical process)?