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Designing for mathematical abstraction

Pratt, D; Noss, R; (2010) Designing for mathematical abstraction. International Journal of Computers for Mathematical Learning , 15 (2) pp. 81-97. 10.1007/s10758-010-9160-z. Green open access

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Abstract

Our focus is on the design of systems (pedagogical, technical, social) that encourage mathematical abstraction, a process we refer to as designing for abstraction. In this paper, we draw on detailed design experiments from our research on children's understanding about chance and distribution to re-present this work as a case study in designing for abstraction. Through the case study, we elaborate a number of design heuristics that we claim are also identifiable in the broader literature on designing for mathematical abstraction. Our previous work on the micro-evolution of mathematical knowledge indicated that new mathematical abstractions are routinely forged in activity with available tools and representations, coordinated with relatively naïve unstructured knowledge. In this paper, we identify the role of design in steering the micro-evolution of knowledge towards the focus of the designer's aspirations. A significant finding from the current analysis is the identification of a heuristic in designing for abstraction that requires the intentional blurring of the key mathematical concepts with the tools whose use might foster the construction of that abstraction. It is commonly recognized that meaningful design constructs emerge from careful analysis of children's activity in relation to the designer's own framework for mathematical abstraction. The case study in this paper emphasizes the insufficiency of such a model for the relationship between epistemology and design. In fact, the case study characterises the dialectic relationship between epistemological analysis and design, in which the theoretical foundations of designing for abstraction and for the micro-evolution of mathematical knowledge can co-emerge. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

Type: Article
Title: Designing for mathematical abstraction
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s10758-010-9160-z
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1500184
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