Research mathematicians and school children experience mathematics in profoundly different ways. Ask a group of mathematicians what it means to “do mathematics” and you are likely to get a myriad of responses: mathematics involves analyzing and organizing patterns and relationships, reasoning and drawing conclusions about the world, or creating languages and tools to describe and solve important problems. Students of mathematics often report “doing mathematics” as performing calculations or following rules. It’s natural that they see mathematics as monolithic rather than an evolving, growing, socially constructed body of knowledge, because most mathematical training in primary and secondary schools consists of learning how to use pre-existing mathematical tools. They rarely get to see the process by which those tools came about, let alone authentically participate in the construction of those tools.
©2008 Mathematical Association of America
Orrison, M., and Yong, D. "Imagine Math Day: Encouraging Secondary School Students and Teachers to Engage in Authentic Mathematical Discovery." MAA FOCUS 28 (2008), no. 6, 24-27.