What’s Arbitrary and Necessary in Math?

June 14th, 2017

Teaching is a balancing act. The idea is to impart sufficient information to students and still teach independent critical thinking. The goal is always to create informed citizens who are capable of deducing from any set of data. But how does a teacher, especially a Math teacher, accomplish this while teaching formulas and calculations?

“In 1999, Dave Hewitt wrote an article that can provide an excellent framework for helping mathematics teachers reflect on their own practice,” so begins Dr. Debbie Verzosa, seasoned Mathematics educator, in her latest article “Arbitrary and Necessary” in MathEx Teacher’s Guide. “This article talked about the arbitrary and the necessary in the mathematics curriculum, and how these require different kinds of teaching.”

According to Dr. Verzosa, the arbitrary in Math is composed of the terms or conventions that have been agreed upon by mathematicians and scholars. A good example is the idea of arranging numbers from left to right in the number line. On the other hand, necessary is everything that a student can work out or deduce on their own.

Want to know more about these concepts and how they play out in Math education? Subscribe to MathEx Magazine, Vibal Group’s supplementary reading material for Math, and get your very own Teacher’s Guide to read Dr. Verzosa’s cover article. Contact your Vibal Account Executive or e-mail to receive your sample copy.