Ernst von Glasersfeld's answers
February 1998


Subject: Radical Constructivism

S i r :
I am a graduate student in mathematics education and I have come across your radical constructivist perspective. Unlike the social constructivist view, I cannot visualize radical constructivist approach to teaching mathematics. I do not have access to your books here in the Philippines, so would you please provide me some short answers, tips or pointers?

Mate Aggabao

There is no essential discrepancy between social and radical constructivism with regard to math education. The work of Heinrich Bauersfeld and Paul Cobb shows this very clearly [lots of references in the literature . See also the book I edited: Radical Constructivism in Math. Education, Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1991]. The disagreement concerns the locus of knowledge. Some social constructivists get angry when I say that knowledge exists nowhere but in the heads of individuals. This does not deny the role of social interaction - it merely stresses the obvious fact that 'others', society, language, etc. become known to the individual only by way of his or her interpretation of the relevant interactions. This is important not only for mathematics but for all education: understanding cannot be conveyed, neither by society nor by teachers, it has to be constructed be each individual - which is not to say that others cannot help!



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