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Elise Lockwood and Branwen Purdy

The multiplication principle (MP) is a fundamental aspect of combinatorial enumeration, serving as an effective tool for solving counting problems and underlying many key combinatorial formulas. In this study, the authors used guided reinvention to investigate 2 undergraduate students' reasoning about the MP, and they sought to answer the following research questions: How do students come to understand and make sense of the MP? Specifically, while a pair of students reinvented a statement of the MP, how did they attend to and reason about key mathematical features of the MP? The students participated in a paired 8-session teaching experiment during which they progressed from a nascent to a sophisticated statement of the MP. Two key mathematical features emerged for the students through this process, including independence and distinct composite outcomes, and we discuss ways in which these ideas informed the students' reinvention of the statement. In addition, we present potential implications and directions for future research.