In a range of meaningful contexts: 25 years of struggle for meaning in mathematics teaching
The use of meaningful contexts has been a given in New Zealand’s mathematics curricula for the last 25 years. They hold a privileged position, but there has been little examination of why they are given this position either nationally or internationally, even though there is solid evidence that the use of contexts and word problems in mathematics is not without implications for equitable access to mathematics, student learning, and assessment of learning. So what are the affordances and constraints of taking the meaningful context approach to mathematics? What has been the impact of taking this approach on student achievement and learning? These are important questions given The New Zealand Curriculum is ten years old and a curriculum review is looming. These questions are being raised to start an essential debate for mathematics education in New Zealand, one that needs to take place prior to any curriculum review so an informed decision on the place and nature of meaningful contexts in future mathematics curricula can be made.
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