Mathematics Education: An Interdisciplinary Approach
My research in mathematics education takes an interdisciplinary approach. I work with mathematics education through the arts, language and embodiment, particularly through genre and gesture analysis.
My current research project aims to help students ‘make sense’ (almost literally) of the graphs of mathematical functions. Students in the early years of secondary school work with a mathematics educator and a choreographer using gesture, movement and sound to focus attention on mathematically-important features of the graphs of functions (roots, maxima/minima, symmetries, asymptotes, etc.)
Gestures are necessarily made with reference to our bodies, and this project has shown that different students placed the x-axis differently in relation to their own bodies. The positioning of the x-axis against the body, and the distinction between being the graph and seeing the graph in elicited gestures turned out to be a key factor in diagnosing a student’s level of mathematical understanding. The learners rated as top math students by their teachers were the ones who were capable of being (in) the graph, rather than holding it at arms length.
We are now using these ideas to develop an active, performative pedagogy around the teaching of graphing and mathematical functions, to try to bring everyone to the level of the top students. Learners are taught to ‘read graphs with their bodies’ using gesture, movement and sound to draw attention to mathematically-salient features of graphs, while also making conceptual connections through more established teaching modes (such as short lectures and investigations). Results suggest that kids who learn math through movement, sound and very brief conceptual lectures learn faster and retain patterns and concepts longer than those who learn only through lectures.
Dr. Susan Gerofsky Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy