In my previous post I talked about where AIMS came from, what AIMS has been doing over these past more than 30 years, and what it continues to do. In this post I want to talk a bit about the underlying understanding about how children come to know concepts of mathematics that has guided AIMS of the years of its existence.
Thirty years ago when AIMS was getting started, the theory that informed the development of the early AIMS activities, and that has continued to inform our development and writing of activities, is the work of Jean Piaget. Piaget believed that children come to know through active engagement with objects.
Piaget believed that knowledge is not merely transmitted verbally, but must be constructed and reconstructed by the learner. He asserted that for a child to know and construct knowledge of the world, the child must act on objects–and it is this action which provides knowledge of those objects. The mind organizes reality and acts upon it. The learner must be active; he is not a vessel to be filled with facts. Piaget believed that children need to explore, to manipulate, to experiment, to question, and to search out answers for themselves—activity is essential.
The primary principle that AIMS curriculum developers took away from Piaget’s work was an abiding belief in the importance of creating hands-on, engaging activities. Anyone browsing through a collection of AIMS activities will see that AIMS writers have stayed true to those beliefs. This is what those of you who purchase AIMS activities expect; it’s the reason you turn to AIMS for activities to help you more effectively teach math and science.
There is a reminder of this understanding of how children come to know at the front of each AIMS book. It’s an ancient Chinese proverb:
Over these past thirty years, much of Piaget’s work has been subsumed within what today is referred as constructivism. A great deal more is known today about how students come to know fraction concepts in math, for example, or force and motion in science, than we knew even 15 years ago. In the next post I want to talk about a vision for absorbing some of the abundance of research that has been done and finding ways to translate that research into practice.