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Symbolic Cognition in Advanced Mathematics

Principal Investigators
Stephen Hegedus, UMass Dartmouth
Gary Davis, UMass Dartmouth

National Science Foundation
Award: REC-0440100

The project funded two symposia over the course of one year and brought together a select group of seminal thinkers in symbolic cognition in undergraduate mathematics, for the purpose of establishing a research agenda in this new line of inquiry. Symbolic cognition in mathematics is concerned with the evolution and use of mathematical symbols, especially their practical side – the specific cognitive and communicative roles that symbols play in helping people to do mathematics and learners to learn undergraduate mathematics.

Building on 3 years of work (2001-2003) at the annual meetings of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME), we assembled an international group of scholars from the fields of mathematics and mathematics education, for the purpose of critically examining the major research themes emerging from the PME working group meetings, and to develop and produce a seminal work on the use of symbols in undergraduate mathematics instruction that will have theoretical and practical implications.

Our intention was that this international working group would be able, through its focus on research and writing, to bring the issues of symbolic cognition in undergraduate mathematical thinking to a point where it is highly visible and on the agenda of all teachers of undergraduate mathematics through collaboration with national organizations such as the American Mathematical Society.

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