Teaching Problems and the Problems of Teaching

Magdalene Lampert

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In today’s education debates, many experts call for school vouchers, smaller classes, more standardized testing, or rigorous teacher accrediting as the key to improving student performance. Remarkably, none of these approaches addresses what actually goes on in the classroom. In this book an experienced classroom teacher and noted researcher on teaching takes us into her fifthgrade math class through the course of a year. Magdalene Lampert shows how classroom dynamics—the complex relationship of teacher, student, and content—are critical in the process of bringing each student to a deeper understanding of mathematics, or any other subject. She offers valuable insights into students and teaching for all who are concerned about improving the learning that happens in the classroom.

Lampert considers the teacher’s and students’ work from many different angles, in views large and small. She analyzes her own practice in a particular classroom, student by student and moment by moment. She also investigates the particular kind of teaching that aims at engaging elementary school students in learning fundamentally important ideas and skills by working on problems. Finally, she looks at the common problems of teaching that occur regardless of the individuals, subject matter, or kinds of practice involved. Lampert arrives at an original model of teaching practice that casts new light on the complexity in teachers’ work and on the ways teachers can successfully deal with teaching problems.

Magdalene Lampert is Professor of Educational Studies, School of Education, University of Michigan.

“There have been many excellent books published about teaching but this book has something very special about it. I am currently in my thirty seventh year of teaching and I must say that I have never read anything quite like it. . . . This book is a great deal more than just another book about teaching. The psychology of teaching mathematics through problems, when allied to a detailed analysis of the psychology involved as the teacher reflects on the needs of every individual child in the class and the way her own responses are going to best support them, is such a fruitful combination that many people and not just teachers of mathematics would find this book extremely illuminating. I think that all teachers would find a great deal to help them.”—Kevin Purday, Metapsychology

“Uses a case study of a fifth-grade mathematics class to examine how the dynamic relationships of the classroom affect learning.”—The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Although the setting is mathematics, the value of Lampert’s book is broad, addressing the core issues that face anyone in education. This is one of the most important books about education to appear in the past decade. What Lampert writes is deep and compelling. The story is engaging, even griping; I couldn’t put it down.”—Jim Stigler, author of The Learning Gap

“This very readable book is invaluable for teacher preparation colleges. Students and practitioners as well as general readers will gain a deeper understanding of teaching. Researchers will find the framework and methodology noteworthy.”—Choice

“This is a major research project . . . and a marvelous insight into the teacher’s craft. . . . A well-crafted, modest, richly pleasurable, even gripping, book, that says more about the challenges and pleasures of teaching (and learning) than a host of manuals could. You don’t need to be a mathematics teacher to enjoy it, although once you have read it, you may wish you were. Excellent.”—Michael Duffy, Times Educational Supplement

“As I approached the book, I wondered whether it would offer new insights. I was not disappointed. The book provides a wealth of new information. In addition, Lampert has skillfully crafted her book so that it can be read productively by many different audiences and from many different perspectives. . . . Readers who teach intermediate grades, middle grades, or teacher education students will find problems that they will want to add to their existing repertoires. . . . The book can be read as a resource for teacher educators. . . . The book can serve as a resource for researchers. . . . The book can be read as a companion to NCTM’s recent Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. . . . As a whole, the book can be seen as a comprehensive elaboration of the five process standards: problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, connections, and representation. . . . This book should be required reading for researchers of mathematics teaching, for teacher educators, and for teachers who wish to develop into reflective practitioners. In my view, the field of mathematics education would benefit greatly if all or parts of this book were read by school administrators and educational policymakers.”—Erna Yackel, Journal of Research in Mathematics Education

“The book cannot be praised enough for this wonderful combination of a theory of practice and a practical theory. . . . This extremely important book shows in an exciting way how teaching and learning evolve slowly throughout a school year. It shows in a detailed and exemplary fashion how a qualitatively different form of mathematics education is possible in which students’ understanding of mathematics becomes a true aim, and in which it is not only intended but also attained.”—Falk Seeger, Mind, Culture, and Activity
ISBN: 9780300089738
Publication Date: August 11, 2001
512 pages, 7 x 10