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Annotated Review of School Mathematics Reform, Constructivism, and Literacy by Draper (2002)

      In this article, Draper (2002), in assuming a constructivist philosophy, implores mathematics educators to move away from the old transmission model of instruction towards a new student centered model where the teacher acts as a facilitator of student experiences involving cooperative groups, mathematical manipulatives, and projects focused on thinking about interesting problems that promote “conversations so that the learner is able to construct meaning, understanding and knowledge” for themselves in the hope that they can become independent learners (Draper, 2002, p. 522).  This process of becoming an independent learner however, requires the development of a mathematical schema, or a way to organize raw data into meaningful patterns so that one is able to draw generalizations, form opinions, and understand new experiences in mathematical contexts (Draper, 2002).  However, although constructivist ideology describes “how it is that students come to know and understand,” it does not contain (within itself) “specific methods for helping students construct knowledge” (Draper, 2002, p.523). Thus, a constructivist classroom lends itself to the “adapt(ation) of literacy activities for the mathematics classroom” that will help students develop the schemata necessary to be able “to act and think like mathematicians” (Draper, 2002, p. 523). 

      These literacy activities will be utilized within a broad definition that includes the “ability to read, write, speak, compute, reason, and manipulate verbal (and visual) symbols and concepts” and “anything that provides readers, writers, listeners, speakers, and thinkers with the potential to create meaning through language” as definitions of being literate and text respectively (Draper, 2002, p. 523).  These broad definitions allow educators to realize that the “mathematics classroom is a text-rich environment” where students can “communicate to learn mathematics, [as] they learn to communicate mathematically” (Draper, 2002, p. 523).  This communication can be supported through communication activities such as “Directed Reading-Thinking Activitiy, or DR-TA, the Guided Reading Procedure, or GRP” or the “What I know, What I Want to know, and What I Learned, or K-W-L,” amongst others that help create “a student-centered, constructivist classroom” (Draper, 2002, p. 525). 

      In this article, Draper (2002) specifically outlined how DR-TA can “provide students with a model and practice for how to strategically read a mathematics text” (p. 525).  In utilizing DR-TA, an educator should first “activate the background knowledge and arouse student interest,” then have the students “generate a list of predictions or questions they expect to be answered from the text” after they read the title of the text, then after the students read bits of the text they should be stopped and provided with metacognitive prompts, which prompts thinking about thinking before they are finally asked to summarize the text (Draper, 2002, p. 525 ).  The goal in using DR-TA and other communication activities is to help students internalize the script or create a schema that will help them read and comprehend texts independently (Draper, 2002).  Thus, using such methods as DR-TA and in creating a constructivist classroom marked by “receptivity and responsiveness to students and teaching,” mathematics teachers should be able to grant their students “access to texts” and an understanding of mathematics “as a way of knowing and reading as a mode of learning” (Draper, 2002, p. 527).

Article Citation

Draper, R.J. (2002). School mathematics reform, constructivism, and literacy: A case for literacy instruction in the reform-oriented math classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 45(6), 520-529.  


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