Because proof is central to mathematical practice, mathematics educators believe that proof should play an important role in mathematics classrooms. Proof appears as a major learning objective in many national curricula ( A. J. Stylianides, Bieda
Jennifer A. Czocher and Keith Weber
Eric J. Knuth
Recent reform efforts call on secondary school mathematics teachers to provide all students with rich opportunities and experiences with proof throughout the secondary school mathematics curriculum—opportunities and experiences that reflect the nature and role of proof in the discipline of mathematics. Teachers' success in responding to this call, however, depends largely on their own conceptions of proof. This study examined 16 in-service secondary school mathematics teachers' conceptions of proof. Data were gathered from a series of interviews and teachers' written responses to researcher-designed tasks focusing on proof. The results of this study suggest that teachers recognize the variety of roles that proof plays in mathematics; noticeably absent, however, was a view of proof as a tool for learning mathematics. The results also suggest that many of the teachers hold limited views of the nature of proof in mathematics and demonstrated inadequate understandings of what constitutes proof.
Juan Pablo Mejiía-Ramos and Keith Weber
We report on a study in which we observed 73 mathematics majors completing 7 proof construction tasks in calculus. We use these data to explore the frequency and effectiveness with which mathematics majors use diagrams when constructing proofs. The key findings from this study are (a) nearly all participants introduced diagrams on multiple tasks, (b) few participants displayed either a strong propensity or a strong reluctance to use diagrams, and (c) little correlation existed between participants' propensity to use diagrams and their mathematical achievement (either on the proof construction tasks or in their advanced mathematics courses). At the end of the report, we discuss implications for pedagogy and future research.
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.
Lulu Healy and Celia Hoyles
After surveying high-attaining 14-and 15-year-old students about proof in algebra, we found that students simultaneously held 2 different conceptions of proof: those about arguments they considered would receive the best mark and those about arguments they would adopt for themselves. In the former category, algebraic arguments were popular. In the latter, students preferred arguments that they could evaluate and that they found convincing and explanatory, preferences that excluded algebra. Empirical argument predominated in students' own proof constructions, although most students were aware of its limitations. The most successful students presented proofs in everyday language, not using algebra. Students' responses were influenced mainly by their mathematical competence but also by curricular factors, their views of proof, and their genders.
Andreas L. Stylianides
Many researchers and curriculum frameworks recommend that the concept of proof and the corresponding activity of proving become part of students' mathematical experiences throughout the grades. Yet it is still unclear what “proof” means in school mathematics, especially in the elementary grades, and what role teachers have in cultivating proof and proving among their students. In this article, I propose a conceptualization of the meaning of proof in school mathematics and use classroom episodes from third grade to elaborate elements of this conceptualization and to illustrate its applicability even in the early elementary grades. Furthermore, I use the conceptualization to develop a tool to analyze the classroom episodes and to examine aspects of the teachers' role in managing their students' proving activity. This analysis supports the development of a framework about instructional practices for cultivating proof and proving in school mathematics.
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.
Denisse R. Thompson, Sharon L. Senk and Gwendolyn J. Johnson
This article addresses the nature and extent of reasoning and proof in the written (i.e., intended) curriculum of 20 contemporary high school mathematics textbooks. Both the narrative and exercise sets in lessons dealing with the topics of exponents, logarithms, and polynomials were examined. The extent of proof-related reasoning varied by topic and textbook. Overall, about 50% of the identified properties in the 3 topic areas were justified, with about 30% of the addressed properties justified with a general argument and about 20% justified with an argument about a specific case. However, less than 6% of the exercises in the homework sets involved proof-related reasoning, with developing an argument and investigating a conjecture as the most frequently occurring types of proof-related reasoning.
Guershon Harel and Jeffrey M. Rabin
This Brief Report summarizes case studies of the classroom teaching practices of 2 algebra teachers. The data consist of videotaped classroom observations during 1 academic year. The study identifies and characterizes specific teaching practices that establish the norm that the teacher is the sole arbiter of mathematical correctness in the classroom. The authors suggest that these practices are likely to promote the development of the authoritative proof scheme in students. The results can provide a basis for future research investigating the prevalence of these teaching practices and their impact on student learning, and they can be used as parameters to investigate teacher change.
Annie Selden and John Selden
This article reports on an exploratory study of the way that eight mathematics and secondary education mathematics majors read and reflected on four student-generated arguments purported to be proofs of a single theorem. The results suggest that such undergraduates tend to focus on surface features of arguments and that their ability to determine whether arguments are proofs is very limited—perhaps more so than either they or their instructors recognize. The article begins by discussing arguments (purported proofs) regarded as texts and validations of those arguments, that is, reflections of individuals checking whether such arguments really are proofs of theorems. It relates the mathematics research community's views of proofs and their validations to ideas from reading comprehension and literary theory. Then, a detailed analysis of the four student-generated arguments is given and the eight students' validations of them are analyzed.