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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Author Biography

Michael Drake

Michael Drake is a senior lecturer in the mathematics education team at Victoria University of Wellington’s Faculty of Education. He lectures in the primary and secondary pre-service programmes. His research interests relate to developing students’ understanding of mathematics and how affect influences learning, teacher professional development, and pre-service teacher education. He is currently involved in research into the learning of basic facts, linear scales of the kind found in measurement and graphing, and ambitious mathematics teaching.

How to Cite
DRAKE, Michael. In a range of meaningful contexts: 25 years of struggle for meaning in mathematics teaching. The New Zealand Annual Review of Education, [S.l.], v. 23, p. 36-62, dec. 2018. ISSN 1178-3311. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 12 aug. 2020. doi: