In this article, we argue that the debates about mathematics education that have arisen in the United States over
the past decade are the result of a major shift in how we conceptualize mathematical knowledge and
mathematics learning. First, we examine past efforts to change mathematics education and argue they are
grounded in a common traditional paradigm. Next, we describe the emergence of a new paradigm that has
grown out of a coalescence of theories from cognitive psychology, an awareness of the importance of culture to
learning, and the belief that all students can and should learn meaningful mathematics. Reforms grounded in the
new paradigm have the potential to dramatically alter the way in which students—as well as which students—
experience success in school mathematics. We discuss some implications of these reforms related to how
mathematics educators might work with teachers of mathematics.
Last modified: 30 July 2012.
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