Author Archives: Richard Thiessen

Constructivism and More

The Research Division of the AIMS Center is organized into four teams, of which three teams are presently focused on research related to how children come to know number. Our ultimate goal is to translate that research into classroom practice. 

The theory base underlying the research we are following is what might be called a Piagetian Constructivist understanding of how children, and adults for that matter, “come to know”.   As a Center we want each member of the research division to have a deep understanding of this theory, not only because this is the theory base for the research we are currently looking at, but because this is the lens through which we view all research. All of the tasks that we design for translating what we learn will be informed by this Piagetian Constructivist understanding of how children come to know.

As Director of Research I have many responsibilities, such as learning how recent neuroscience research fits into the work we are doing.  Perhaps the one that is most immediate is to facilitate the ongoing growth of knowledge of constructivism by the research team members.  I’ve had personal knowledge of Piaget’s work and have known some of his theory for many years.  I designed a Piagetian study for my own dissertation (a couple of decades ago!).  What I hope for each of us working in the research division of the AIMS Center is that we develop a deep knowledge of Piaget’s constructivism so that we speak the language, are able apply the theory, and are readily able to view any research we are reading through the lens of this theory.  That’s a tall order and, while we’re beginning to speak the language, there is much more to learn and at a much deeper level.

As I’ve considered this responsibility and have worked at my own “coming to know” more deeply, I realized that each of the three teams spend hours each week reading together, studying together, and going out to schools together to reenact research.  I felt the need for someone to come alongside of me – someone to read with, someone to talk to about what I am reading, someone to help me begin to write about what we are coming to know more deeply. Together I wanted to begin to think about how it can be communicated and how we might help others come to know more deeply.

Melinda Riccardi, one of our research associates who recently completed her MA in Mathematics Education, and who is a voracious reader and eager learner, has agreed to join me to form a fourth team that we are calling Constructivism and More.  Instead of feeling alone in my task, I now have the wonderful problem of trying to keep up with Mel, as she reads and we talk and we begin to figure out how to communicate and facilitate this construction by colleagues, other research associates, and graduate students. One day I hope that we have the opportunity to  inservice teachers toward a deeper constructivist understanding of how children come to know.  

The Early Math Team at The AIMS Center

The members of the Early Math Team at the AIMS Center for Math and Science Education are Research Associates Jason Chamberlain, Liz Gamino, Wilma Hashimoto, and Aileen Rizo, along with myself, Senior Researcher, Richard Thiessen.  We are really excited to be working with preschool children in partnership with Fresno EOC Head Start.   This year we… Continue Reading

Introducing the AIMS Center for Math and Science Education

The last post in this series about AIMS—past, present, and future—ended with the statement that in the next post I would talk about a vision for AIMS that would involve translating research into practice. In a sense, that is what AIMS has been doing over the years–but in a very general way–by exploring ways to… Continue Reading

Our AIMS for the Future

Our AIMS for the Future

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… Continue Reading

Where did AIMS come from? What has AIMS been doing? Where is AIMS going?

Where did AIMS come from? What has AIMS been doing? Where is AIMS going?

This post is the first of several that will outline some new directions for AIMS. Here I would simply like to give you a bit history. Some of you will know that AIMS is an outgrowth of the Graduate Math/Science Program at Fresno Pacific University. The AIMS Education Foundation got its start as the result… Continue Reading

Tangram Polygons: Composing and Decomposing

In my last post, Tangrams: A World of Geometry, Part Two, I talked about the thirteen convex polygon shapes that can be formed with the seven tangram pieces. In the video, I showed how to make five of them, and then I left a challenge for you to look for the remaining eight convex shapes.… Continue Reading

Tangrams: A World of Geometry, Part Two

Tangrams: A World of Geometry, Part Two

I just realized that in my post two weeks ago, Tangrams: A World of Geometry, I only included part one of the tangram video. The forming of the pieces is completed in part two of that video. I’m hoping that some of you noticed that what you saw was not complete and that you were… Continue Reading

The Problem of Anwar’s Camels

I just started reading Fractions in Realistic Mathematics Education by Leen Streefland, and there, on page 5, Streefland gives as an example an old puzzle problem that I remember giving my students more than 40 years ago. “An old Arab, Anwar his name, decreed before he died that his eldest son inherit one-half, his second… Continue Reading

The Forty-Yard-Line is Opposite the Forty-Yard-Line?

The Forty-Yard-Line is Opposite the Forty-Yard-Line?

One of the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice includes a focus on students knowing and using correct mathematical language and using clear definitions in discussions with others. There are times when everyday words are used in special ways in school mathematics, and it is important that students come to understand the precise mathematical meaning… Continue Reading