Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more ➡
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Add note
Save to My Library
Sync to mobile
Look up keyword
Like this
2Activity
×
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Mason Delicateshiftofattention

Mason Delicateshiftofattention

Ratings: (0)|Views: 1,069|Likes:
Published by davisfc50

More info:

Published by: davisfc50 on Sep 23, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See More
See less

03/18/2013

pdf

text

original

 
FLM Publishing Association
0DWKHPDWLFDO$EVWUDFWLRQDVWKH5HVXOWRID'HOLFDWH6KLIWRI$WWHQWLRQ$XWKRUV-RKQ0DVRQ5HYLHZHGZRUNV6RXUFH
)RUWKH/HDUQLQJRI0DWKHPDWLFV
9RO1R-XQSS3XEOLVKHGE\
6WDEOH85/
$FFHVVHG
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at
.
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspJSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
FLM Publishing Association
is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to
For the Learning of Mathematics.
http://www.jstor.org
 
Mathematical
Abstraction
as
the
Result
of
a
Delicate
Shift
of
Attention
JOHNMASONStudentsof mathematics ftensaythattheyfindmathe-maticsabstract,andgivethisasthe reasonforbeingstuck,fordislikingmathematicsessons,oreven orwith-drawingrom mathematicsltogether.Yet thepowerofmathematics,andthepleasurehat mathematiciansetfromit,arise frompreciselythe abstractnatureofmathematics.Theaimofthis article isto explorethisunfortunateichotomyfresponseothe ideaof abstrac-tion,to ventureatechnicaluse of the termwhichcould beofhelpomathematicseachers ndstudents alike,andtoprovideacasestudy.The firstquestions whether hewordabstractsactu-ally beingusedn thesameway byfrustratedtudentsandbyinspiredprofessionals.Theverbsusuallypronounceddifferentlytotheadjectiveandnoun,emphasis beingplacedon theprefixabwhen itisusedas anoun oradjectiveasin thebeginningsofpapers,andwhenap-pliedto anidea thatseems unconnectedwithrealityorwhichfails toinspireconfidence hencethepejorativemeaning)ndon the root stem tractwhenusedoreferoaprocessakintoextracting.Thus extractmeanso drawout,and to abstractmeans odrawaway.Eco,in discuss-ingthemeaningof aesthetic n the workofSt.ThomasAquinas,writes hatAestheticseeingnvolvesgraspingheforminthesensible.It therefore occurspriortothe act ofabstraction,becauseinabstractiontheformisdivorcedrom the sensible.Eco,1988,page 193]Ifemphasissplacedondivorced,we areremindedf thestudent'sexperience.Itiseasytosympathisewith thestudent's ense of abstractasremovedromor divorcedfromreality orperhaps,moreaccurately,rommeaning,since ourrealityconsistsnthatwhichwe findmeaning-ful).Butperhapshis senseofbeingoutofcontactarisesbecausetherehas beenlittleornoparticipationntheprocessofabstraction,n the movementfdrawingway.Perhapsallthe studentsare awareof isthehavingbeendrawnawayratherhan thedrawingtself.Ifemphasissplacedonform,we areremindedftheexpert's xperience.Tall[1988]speaksna similarein ofabstractionas)the isolationofspecificattributesfaconceptsothattheycan beconsideredeparatelyfromtheotherattributes.Whenforms becomeobjectsorcomponentsofthought,and whenwithfamiliarity heybecomementallymanipu-lable,becoming,asitwere,concrete,mathematicsindsitsgreatestpower.Butabstractionsnotusthighermath-ematics orthe few. It isanintegralpartofspeakingndthinking.C.S.Peirce,he notedcreatorofpragmaticism,havingdrawnattentiono the abstractionswhichwecallcollections,namely pairs,dozens,sonnets,scores,etc,wrote:.. . thegreatrollingbillowsof abstractionntheocean ofmathematicalhought;butwhenwecometominuteexaminationofit,we shallfind,ineverydepartment,ncessantipplesof the sameformofthought..[Peirce, 1982]Far frombeinganabstrusectivityofexpertmathemat-icians,abstractions a commonexperience.Whythendoesmathematicalbstractionetthereactiontdoes?Mythesiss thatthe usesofthe wordabstractn mathe-maticsbyboth novicesandprofessionalseferso a com-mon,rootexperience:nextremelybriefmomentwhichhappensinthetwinklingof aneye;adelicateshiftofattentionfromseeinganexpressionasanexpressionfgenerality,oseeingtheexpressionsanobjectorprop-erty.Thus,abstractingies betweentheexpressionofgeneralityndthemanipulationfthatexpressionwhile,forexample,constructingconvincingrgument.nthateverso delicatehiftofattentionoccurshedrawingwayof form fromthesensible,heabstraction,eferredointhequotationromAquinas.When heshiftoccurs,tishardlynoticeablend,toamathematician,tseems themostnaturalandobviousmovementmaginable.Consequentlytfailso attract heexpert'sattention.Whenthe shiftdoesnotoccur,itblocksprogressandmakeshestudenteelout oftouchandexcluded,amereobservern apeculiaritual.Somestudentsevenmasteraspectsoftheform of theritualwithoutbeingableoexplainwhyheydowhatheydo.Afew,throughthisprocessof habituationPeirce,1982;MasonandDavis,1988]ind themselvesble toexplainthingstoothers,butmanynevercompletelyosetheirsenseof alienation.Myapproachothethesismakesuseof thetheoryofshiftsof attentionMasonandDavis,1988]andproceedsvia theDisciplineofNoticingMason,1987].presentfewepisodesromamathematicalasestudynwhichouthereaderreasked oparticipate.hecasestudysbasedonpartofwhathappeneduringweekendfmathemat-icalproblemolvingdevotedothethemeofaxiomsandabstracting,withparticipantsaryingrommathemat-icallynaiveundergraduatesosophisticatedraduates
FortheLearningofMathematics9,2(June 1989)2FLMPublishingAssociation,Montreal,Quebec,Canada
 
andtutors oftheOpenUniversity.Byengaginginthemathematicaltasks,itismy predic-tion thatyouwillexperienceaspectsofabstractingwhichIhavefoundsignificant.Bymeans oftheseexamples, youwill(throughtheprocessofgeneralisingfrommyexam-ples)construe what I meanbyvariousterms,suchasshiftofattention,characterising,andabstracting,andbecausethedescriptionsarerelated to mathematicalexperience,youwill be morelikelyto noticetheirapplicabilityinmathematical moments inthefuture.Thisin turnwillenableyou,shouldyousowish,to takealternativeaction,orat leastto bemore sharplyawareofaspectswhichmightotherwisehave been overlooked.AsSt.AugustinewroteIn thehallsofmemorywe beartheimagesofthingsonceperceived,asmemorialswhichwe cancon-templatementally,and canspeakof with agoodconscience andwithoutlying.Butthesememorialsbelongtousprivately.Ifanyonehearsmespeakofthem,providedhehas seenthemhimself,hedoesnot learn frommywords,butrecognisesthe truth ofwhat Isay bytheimageshehasinhisownmemory.But if he hasnothadthesesensations,obviouslyhebelievesmywords ratherthanlearnsfromthem.[St.Augustine, 389]Evenwith theinfluence of amoderntranslation,thisobservationofSt.Augustineneatly expressesthepurposeofmy offeringa casestudy,andtheeffectIintendittohave.Thevalidityofmythesis liesintheextenttowhichyourecognisetheaspectswhichIstress,andtheextenttowhichyoufindsuchawarenesshelpfulinthefuture.Thismethodologyisitself aprocessofabstraction,movingasitdoesfromexperience,toexpressingexperience,to tak-ingsuchexpressionsasdescriptionsofpropertiesofmanyexperiences,tomanipulatinglabelsofthoseexperiencesinsubsequentdescriptions.InFloydet al[1982],ahelixwasusedtodescribetheexperienceofmovingfrommanipulatingobjects (physi-cal,pictorial,symbolic,mental)togetting-a-sense-ofsomefeature orpropertyof thoseobjects,toarticulatingthatpropertyas anexpressionofgenerality,tofindingthatexpressionbecomingaconfidence-inspiringentitywhichcan bemanipulatedandusedto seekoutfurtherproperties.Isuggestthattheprocessofabstractinginmathematicsliesin themomentarymovementfromarticulatingtomanipulating.^~~ ^^
VÎ^KîdSS.~____^teujo£^N.^
Articulationof aseeingofgenerality,firstinwordsandpictures,andthen inincreasingly tightandeconomicallysuccinctexpressions,usingsymbolsandperhapsdia-grams,is apinnacleofachievement,oftenachievedonlyaftergreatstruggle.Itturnsinto amerefoothillasitbecomesastagingpostforfurtherworkwiththeexpres-sionasamanipulableobject.Theheliximagenotonlyhelpstolocateabstractinginaflowing process,butalsoreinforcesthenotionthatwhatisabstractfor onepersoncanbecomeconcreteandconfidence-inspiringforothers[Mason,1980].Thelanguageofprocessandobjectisalittletooglib,for inthestressingwhich thewordsimply,thereis atendencytoignoretheexperienceof asense-ofwhichaccompaniesor isassociatedwiththeexpression,andwhichdoes notdisappearwhen theexpressionbecomesanobjectofattention. On thecontrary.Theexpressionactsas asignaltorecall salientassociations. Justasthereis ahugedifferencebetweendrawing yourownfigureinorder tostabiliseyourmentalimageryandtoextendyourthinkingpower,sothere is ahugedifferencebetweenexpressing yourowngeneralityanddoingsomeoneelse'salgebra.Algebraicexpressionsprovideagenericexampleof howmeaningcan remainconnectedtosymbols:itisimportant,foralgebraicthinkingtodevelopeffectively,tomaintain a dualawareness ofexpressions,asentities orobjects,and asstatements abouthowa calculationis tobeperformed[Mason,1982].In thelanguageofTall andVinner[1981],theconcept imageisextendedandmademorepowerful bythemanipulabilityof theexpression,not narrowedand refined.CasestudyAsequence:Expresstoyourselfin action(bydoingit)andinwords(bytalkingtoyourselfora col-league)a rule forcontinuingthefollowingarray[Honsberger1970page87]:
105 11
261213713...481491516Nowattend tothecentralline,andgeneratemoreterms.Find awayofgeneratingevenmoretermswithoutfillingin the othernumbers.Expressyourrule ingeneralterms,andasaformula. Pause nowandtryit.Comment:Theactionoffillinginmorenumbers,whetherperformedphysicallyorjustmentally,servestoclarifyandcrystalliseasense ofwhatisgoingon,andpreparesthewayforaverbalstatement of ageneralrule.Forexample,thepresenceof thesquarenumbersincertain3

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->