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Constructing Number

Anderson Norton and Martha Alibali, eds.
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
Research in Mathematics Education
[Reviewed by
Erika David Parr
, on
Constructing Number: Merging Perspectives from Psychology and Mathematics Education places in conversation research from both cognitive science and mathematics education regarding children’s construction of number. The book is divided into three parts focusing on: whole (natural) numbers, fractions, and integers. Each part contains research from both cognitive psychologists and mathematics education researchers and concludes with a commentary that synthesizes the works of each section while raising relevant theoretical perspectives. 
In the first chapter, the editors introduce the papers contained in this book and provide an epistemological framing to bring together psychological and educational perspectives. They explain that cognitive psychologists who study the construction of number tend to emphasize the innate biological bases for mathematical ideas. In contrast, math educators focus on the experiences and actions that support the development of mathematical ideas. The editors offer sensorimotor activity, which has both innate, biological roots as well as the experiential aspect, as a common ground uniting research from both perspectives.
As the title suggests, the papers contained in Constructing Number do refer to and build upon constructivist work. Familiarity with the works of Piaget and other foundational numeracy education researchers is recommended for the reader. This is likely not a good first book to read as an introduction into this area of research, but could be helpful in developing a literature review, due to the broad base of work referenced within these papers. Readers may also find the theoretical discussions relating the psychological and educational perspectives helpful in understanding the history and role of these perspectives in cognitive research. While the notion of constructing number may at first seem limited to early childhood education, the research reported in this book covers a range of grade levels and I found it interesting as an undergraduate math education researcher. I would recommend this book to researchers at any level that are doing cognitive work around conceptions of number, value, and their representations.


Erika David Parr is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Rhodes College. She holds a PhD in Mathematics Education from Arizona State University and can be reached at [email protected].