The Glass Wall: Why Mathematics Can Seem Difficult

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Teachers College Press, Jul 25, 2002 - Education - 163 pages

“Mathematics isn’t necessarily complicated or difficult, nor is it something that is accessible only to an intellectual elite. Mathematics should be open to everyone, provided no unnecessary obstacles are encountered.”

— From The Glass Wall: Why Mathematics Can Seem Difficult

What makes mathematics understandable? What makes mathematics confusing? Could something be wrong with the way mathematics is taught?

Following his years of studying human intellectual accomplishments such as language, reading, writing, thinking, and learning, Frank Smith now turns his critical lens on the teaching and learning of mathematics. In The Glass Wall, Smith helps us to understand why some people find the world of mathematics so compelling while others find it so difficult. This original volume examines two different worlds: the physical world (our familiar world of objects and events) and the world of mathematics (a completely different domain of experience), and the glass wall that can exist between them. Smith argues that, because the language used to talk about these two worlds is not the same, many people find themselves behind the glass wall, on the outside looking in.

Chapters discuss:

  • What Is Mathematics?
  • Making Sense of Mathematics
  • The Mathematics in Language
  • The Meaning of Numbers
  • Getting Beyond the Glass Wall

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About the author (2002)

Frank Smith has been a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the University of Toronto, the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. A number of his books and professional articles have become classics among educators.

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