A memory theoretic approach for investigating the roles of language and intuition in mathematical thinking activities

28 Sep 2019  ·  Zaker Manouchehr ·

Questions concerning origin of mathematical knowledge and roles of language and intuition (imagery) in mathematical thoughts are long standing and widely debated. By introspection, mathematicians usually have some beliefs regarding these questions... But these beliefs are usually in a big contrast with the recent cognitive theoretic findings concerning mathematics. Contemporary cognitive science opens new approaches to reformulate the fundamental questions concerning mathematics and helps mathematicians break through the Platonic beliefs about the essence and sources of mathematical knowledge. In this article, we introduce and discuss mathematical thinking activities and fundamental processes such as symbolic/formal and visual/spatial ones. Two different aspects of mathematics should be separated in mathematical cognition. One aspect considers mathematics as an explicit crystallized knowledge. The other aspect considers mathematics as an ongoing and transient mental processing. The cognitive processes and corresponding tasks involved in these aspects are different. Ongoing mathematical activities both elementary and advanced, demand working memory resources. Using dual-task techniques, we design some pilot experiments to differentiate the symbolic/formal and visual/spatial processes. Using this memory theoretic approach, we explain the crucial roles of language-based processes such as verbal articulation and instructive speech and also visuo-spatial intuition such as spatial imagery and mental movement in various aspects of mathematics. read more

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