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Students’ Conception of Mathematics Learning: A Hong Kong Study

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Twenty-five Hong Kong students were interviewed on their conceptions of mathematics. They were confronted with ten hypothetical situations in which they were asked to judge whether ‘doing mathematics’ was involved in each case. Results revealed that students associated mathematics with its terminology and content, and that mathematics was often perceived as a set of rules. Wider aspects of mathematics such as visual sense and decision-making were only seen as tangential to mathematics. In particular, they were not perceived as ‘calculable’, which was a major feature of ‘doing mathematics’. However, students did recognize mathematics as closely related to thinking. It also suggests that mathematics was a hard subject in school.

As students’ conceptions of mathematics are largely shaped by their experiences in classroom, the results of the present study reflect the characteristics of mathematics learning experiences they had and the problems which curriculum planners should seriously consider when planning new mathematics curriculum. It is suggested that curriculum planners and mathematics teachers should pay more attention to the neglected areas if the aims of mathematics education are to be fully achieved.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Publication date: January 1, 1999

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  • Curriculum and Teaching is a bi-annual, refereed, international journal publishing original research. It uses a balanced and comparative perspective to consider curriculum design and development, evaluation, curriculum models, comparative studies in curriculum, innovation and policy, planning, and educational administration.
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