Intellectual Need and Problem-Free Activity in the Mathematics Classroom

Evan Fuller, Jeffrey M. Rabin and Guershon Harel (pdf):

Intellectual need, a key part of the DNR theoretical framework, is posited to be necessary for significant learning to occur. This paper provides a theoretical examination of intellectual need and its absence in mathematics classrooms. Although this is not an empirical study, we use data from observed high school algebra classrooms to illustrate four categories of activity students engage in while feeling little or no intellectual need. We present multiple examples for each category in order to draw out different nuances of the activity, and we contrast the observed situations with ones that would provide various types of intellectual need. Finally, we offer general suggestions for teaching with intellectual need.