Sixteenth century reckoners versus twenty-first century problem solvers

Authors Marjolein Kool
Published in M. Van den Heuvel-Panhuizen (Ed.). National Reflections on the Netherlands Didactics of Mathematics: Teaching and Learning in the Context of Realistic Mathematics Education.
Publication date 2020
Research groups Mathematical and analytical competences of professionals
Type Book

Summary

In this chapter, the focus is on arithmetic which for the Netherlands as a trading nation is a crucial part of the mathematics curriculum.The chapter goes back to the roots of arithmetic education in the sixteenth century and compares it with the current approach to teaching arithmetic. In the sixteenth century, in the Netherlands, the traditional arithmetic method using coins on a counting board was replaced by written arithmetic with Hindu–Arabic numbers. Many manuscripts and books written in the vernacular teach this new method to future merchants, money changers, bankers, bookkeepers, etcetera. These students wanted to learn recipes to solve the arithmetical problems of their future profession. The books offer standard algorithms and many practical exercises. Much attention was paid to memorising rules and recipes, tables of multiplication and other number relations. It seems likely that the sixteenth century craftsmen became skilful reckoners within their profession and that was sufficient. They did not need mathematical insight to solve new problems. Five centuries later we want to teach our students mathematical skills to survive in a computerised and globalised society. They also need knowledge about number relations and arithmetical rules, but they have to learn to apply this knowledge flexibly and meaningfully to solve new problems, to mathematise situations, and to evaluate, interpret and check output of computers and calculators. The twenty-first century needs problem solvers, but to acquire the skills of a good problem solver a firm knowledge base—comparable with that of the sixteenth century reckoner—is still necessary.

Language English
Published in M. Van den Heuvel-Panhuizen (Ed.). National Reflections on the Netherlands Didactics of Mathematics: Teaching and Learning in the Context of Realistic Mathematics Education.
ISBN/ISSN URN:ISBN:978-3-030-33824-4
Key words history of mathematics teaching, arithmetic
Digital Object Identifier https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-33824-4
Page range 105-120

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