Building the Foundation: Whole Numbers in the Primary Grades: The 23rd ICMI Study
Maria G. Bartolini Bussi
This twenty-third ICMI Study addresses for the first time mathematics teaching and learning in the primary school (and pre-school) setting, while also taking international perspectives, socio-cultural diversity and institutional constraints into account. One of the main challenges of designing the first ICMI primary school study of this kind is the complex nature of mathematics at the early level. Accordingly, a focus area that is central to the discussion was chosen, together with a number of related questions. The broad area of Whole Number Arithmetic (WNA), including operations and relations and arithmetic word problems, forms the core content of all primary mathematics curricula. The study of this core content area is often regarded as foundational for later mathematics learning. However, the principles and main goals of instruction on the foundational concepts and skills in WNA are far from universally agreed upon, and practice varies substantially from country to country. As such, this study presents a meta-level analysis and synthesis of what is currently known about WNA, providing a useful base from which to gauge gaps and shortcomings, as well as an opportunity to learn from the practices of different countries and contexts.