How Do Children Acquire Number Concepts ECI 314 Early Childhood Mathematics

How Do Children Acquire Number Concepts ECI 314 Early Childhood Mathematics

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The use of copyrighted materials in all formats, including the creation, online delivery, and use of digital copies of copyrighted materials, must be in compliance with U.S. Copyright Law ( http://www.copyright.gov/title17/ ). Materials may not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except as permitted under U.S. copyright law. Copyrighted works are provided under Fair Use Guidelines only to serve personal study, scholarship, research, or teaching needs. From: Young /Children Reinvent Arithmetic, 2nd ED Author/Editor: Kamii, Constance Teachers College Press (2000) ISBN 0807739049 Item Title: Chapter 1 - How Do Children Acquire Number Concepts?
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CHAPTER 1 How Do Children Acquire Number Concepts? During the past 20 years, I (CK) have been asking educators in audiences all over the United States and abroad how they think children acquire number concepts, such as the idea (not the word) of “eight.” Some of the answers have been: “By counting objects,” “by seeing one nose, 2 eyes, 3 cookies, and so on,” and “by making one-to-one correspondence.” The most common explanation given is that children acquire number concepts through “experience.” When I ask “What kind of experience?” the responses remain vague and diffuse. Physicians base their practice on scientific explanations, and they try to de­ termine and then eliminate the cause of an illness. In the case of cancer, physi­ cians know diat the cause of this disease has not been explained scientifically and that all they can do is to deal with symptoms. In education, by contrast, textbook writers and teachers are teaching arithmetic without a scientific explanation of exactly how children acquire number concepts. The absence of a scientific foun­ dation is a characteristic of an art like folk medicine. Piaget’s theory provides the most convincing scientific explanation of how children acquire number concepts. It states, in essence, that logico-mathemati- cal knowledge, including number and arithmetic, is constructed ( created) by each child from within, in interaction with the environment. In other words, logico- mathematical knowledge is not acquired direcdy from the environment by in­ ternalization. Before explaining Piaget’s theory, it is necessary to review the epistemological background behind his research. EMPIRICISM, RATIONALISM, AND PIAGET’S CONSTRUCTIVISM Piaget is often believed to have been a psychologist, but he was actually an epistemologist. Epistemology is the study of the nature and origins of knowl­ edge, expressed in such questions as “How do we know what we think we know?” and “How do we know that what we think we know is true?” Historically, two main currents have developed in response to these questions—the empiricist and the rationalist currents.
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