Gravemeijer, Bruin-Muurling, Kraemer, & van Stiphout (2016)

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Shortcomings of Mathematics Education Reform in The Netherlands: A Paradigm Case?


This article offers a reflection on the findings of three PhD studies, in the domains of, respectively, subtraction under 100, fractions, and algebra, which independently of each other showed that Dutch students' proficiency fell short of what might be expected of reform in mathematics education aiming at conceptual understanding. In all three cases, the disappointing results appeared to be caused by a deviation from the original intentions of the reform, resulting from the textbooks' focus on individual tasks. It is suggested that this "task propensity", together with a lack of attention for more advanced conceptual mathematical goals, constitutes a general barrier for mathematics education reform. This observation transcends the realm of textbooks, since more advanced conceptual mathematical understandings are underexposed as curriculum goals. It is argued that to foster successful reform, a conscious effort is needed to counteract task propensity and promote more advanced conceptual mathematical understandings as curriculum goals.

Outline of Headings

  • Introduction
  • Mathematics education reform in The Netherlands
  • Studies on proficiency and solution methods
    • Subtraction up to 100
    • Fractions
    • Algebra
    • General conclusion on student proficiency
  • Textbooks
    • Subtraction in textbooks
    • Fractions in textbooks
    • Algebra in textbooks
    • Common trend in textbooks
  • Task propensity
  • More advanced conceptual mathematical understandings
    • Goals for subtraction, multiplication of fractions, and algebra
    • Assessment
  • Conclusion and discussion
    • Paradigm case


Gravemeijer, K., Bruin-Muurling, G., Kraemer, J.-M., & van Stiphout, I. (2016). Shortcomings of mathematics education reform in The Netherlands: A paradigm case? Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 18(1), 25–44.
author = {Gravemeijer, Koeno and Bruin-Muurling, Geeke and Kraemer, Jean-Marie and van Stiphout, Irene},
doi = {10.1080/10986065.2016.1107821},
journal = {Mathematical Thinking and Learning},
number = {1},
pages = {25--44},
title = {{Shortcomings of mathematics education reform in The Netherlands: A paradigm case?}},
url = {},
volume = {18},
year = {2016}