What is Mathematics?

Often, people equate mathematics with arithmetic. Arithmetic is concerned with numbers. When considering the mathematics curriculum, many people focus on computational skills and believe that they constitute the full set of competencies that students must have in mathematics. Traditionally, the major emphasis of the K-8 mathematics curriculum has been to teach children arithmetic - how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and percentages. Mathematics involves more than computation. Mathematics is a study of patterns and relationships; a science and a way of thinking; an art, characterized by order and internal consistency; a language, using carefully defined terms and symbols; and a tool. Teachers and other educators working together to improve mathematics education must explore a broader scope of mathematics. Mathematics should include experiences that help students to shift their thinking about mathematics and define mathematics as a study of patterns and relationships; a science and a way of thinking; an art, characterized by order and internal consistency; a language, using carefully defined terms and symbols; and a tool.


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