In a recent article, Inglis and Alcock (2012) contended that their data challenge the claim that when mathematicians validate proofs, they initially skim a proof to grasp its main idea before reading individual parts of the proof more carefully. This result is based on the fact that when mathematicians read proofs in their study, on average their initial reading of a proof took half as long as their total time spent reading that proof. Authors Keith Weber and Juan Pablo Mejía-Ramos present an analysis of Inglis and Alcock's data that suggests that mathematicians frequently used an initial skimming strategy when engaging in proof validation tasks.
Keith Weber and Juan Pablo Mejía-Ramos
Matthew Inglis and Lara Alcock
This article presents a comparison of the proof validation behavior of beginning undergraduate students and research-active mathematicians. Participants' eye movements were recorded as they validated purported proofs. The main findings are that (a) contrary to previous suggestions, mathematicians sometimes appear to disagree about the validity of even short purported proofs; (b) compared with mathematicians, undergraduate students spend proportionately more time focusing on “surface features” of arguments, suggesting that they attend less to logical structure; and (c) compared with undergraduates, mathematicians are more inclined to shift their attention back and forth between consecutive lines of purported proofs, suggesting that they devote more effort to inferring implicit warrants. Pedagogical implications of these results are discussed, taking into account students' apparent difficulties with proof validation and the importance of this activity in both schooland university-level mathematics education.
The purpose of this article is to investigate the mathematical practice of proof validation—that is, the act of determining whether an argument constitutes a valid proof. The results of a study with 8 mathematicians are reported. The mathematicians were observed as they read purported mathematical proofs and made judgments about their validity; they were then asked reflective interview questions about their validation processes and their views on proving. The results suggest that mathematicians use several different modes of reasoning in proof validation, including formal reasoning and the construction of rigorous proofs, informal deductive reasoning, and examplebased reasoning. Conceptual knowledge plays an important role in the validation of proofs. The practice of validating a proof depends upon whether a student or mathematician wrote the proof and in what mathematical domain the proof was situated. Pedagogical and epistemological consequences of these results are discussed.
Jennifer A. Czocher and Keith Weber
nonproofs has two important consequences for experimental design. First, we need to reconsider the genre of proof-validation studies. In many proof-validation studies, students are asked to determine whether a particular justification qualifies as a proof (e