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The Learning Principle

 

Students must learn mathematics with understanding, actively building new knowledge from experience and prior knowledge. 

 

Research has solidly established the importance of conceptual understanding in becoming proficient in a subject. When students understand mathematics, they are able to use their knowledge flexibly. They combine factual knowledge, procedural facility, and conceptual understanding in powerful ways.

Learning the "basics" is important; however, students who memorize facts or procedures without understanding often are not sure when or how to use what they know. In contrast, conceptual understanding enables students to deal with novel problems and settings. They can solve problems that they have not encountered before.

Learning with understanding also helps students become autonomous learners. Students learn more and better when they take control of their own learning. When challenged with appropriately chosen tasks, students can become confident in their ability to tackle difficult problems, eager to figure things out on their own, flexible in exploring mathematical ideas, and willing to persevere when tasks are challenging.

Students of all ages bring to mathematics class a considerable knowledge base on which to build. School experiences should not inhibit students' natural inclination to understand by suggesting that mathematics is a body of knowledge that can be mastered only by a few.


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