Iceberg Metaphor

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* IJsberg_Metafoor (dutch)



The Iceberg metaphor is a reflective tool, that can be used in professionalization, and which encourages practitioners to:

  • reflect upon what is being taught
  • consider gaps which may exist in current provision
  • reflect upon the importance of a firm foundation/ structure
  • recognise the importance of a clear outline to enable building upon previous knowledge
  • encourage progression
  • consider carefully the best use of resources


The Iceberg Metaphor or Iceberg Model (click to enlarge)


The tip of the iceberg represents the targeted formal procedure, e.g. fractions, and this is often the area where much formal teaching is directed. The floating capacity however is vital as it is essential to the stability and foundation of mathematical knowledge. Within the floating capacity there are two distinct stages in a child’s learning (see diagram for a visual representation). The informal section contains activities which afford opportunities that are experiential, practical and often pictorial. These are the building blocks and form the foundations of the mathematical knowledge.

The pre-formal section, situated above the informal section builds upon the experiential learning and further develops the knowledge by the use of representations, models and concepts which are more efficient and abbreviated. In order that a child can grasp the challenge at the tip of the iceberg they must have had experience of a range of teaching and learning as highlighted in the informal and pre-formal stages.


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