Reciprocal development of theory and practice

The Research Advisory Committee of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is working to facilitate collaboration between researchers, teachers and teacher educators. The committee’s primary goal is to help the teaching community participate in scholarly inquiry.

The Research Advisory Committee reports that a study by Stigler, Fernandez, and Yoshida (in press) of the activities of a group of Japanese math teachers demonstrates how research and development can be intimately linked to classroom practice; how theory and practice can be integrated into planning and instruction.

As part of their planning, these math teachers attempted to anticipate how their students might interpret and solve specific math problems and how they could achieve their teaching goals by capitalizing on students’ solutions and explanations. They tested and revised their assumptions in the course of their instruction. In doing so, they added to their understanding of students’ mathematical thinking and of ways to support it.

These teachers acted as both researchers and instructional developers. Collectively, these teachers established a network of explanations based on the analysis of their practice. This kind of interaction between theory and practice in the classroom can guard against swings from one unsubstantiated innovation to another.

“Justification and Reform”, Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, Volume 27, Number 5, November 1996, pp.516-520.

Published in ERN January/February 1997 Volume 10 Number 1

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