of advanced notions of arithmetic that transcend into algebraic realms(Kaput, in press). Kaput (1995), in a call for an earlier introduction of algebra in current curricula, describes one important aspect of algebraicthought:
Acts of generalization and abstraction give rise to formalisms that support syntactic com-putations that, in turn, can be examined for structures of their own, usually based intheir concrete origins ... . These structures seem to have three purposes, (1) to enrichunderstandings of the systems they are abstracted from, (2) to provide intrinsically usefulstructures for computations freed of the particulars that they were once tied to, and (3) toprovide the base for yet higher levels of abstraction and formalization (p. 77).
Various aspects of algebraic understanding athigher grade levels have beenpreviously identiﬁed, including action-oriented, process-oriented, and ob- ject-oriented understandings (Briedenbach etal., 1992; Confrey and Smith,1995; Thompson, 1994; Slavit, 1997a). Although algebra at early gradelevels is also multi-dimensional (Kaput, 1995), for the purposes of thispaper, early algebraic competence willbe primarily restricted tothe cognit-ive processes and actions associated with abstracting computation to morestructural realms, commonly referred to as generalized arithmetic. Theseunderstandings are encapsulated in the above discussion by Kaput and canbe manifested by the manipulation of algebraic symbols and equations.Descriptions of the nature of this abstraction and structure are providedbelow.
Numerous theories have been offered on the nature of mental objects inmathematics (Davis, 1984; Vergnaud, 1988; Cobb et al., 1992; Fuson etal., 1997). Thetransitioning from action- to object-oriented understandingspresent in the theory of reiﬁcation can be related to an investigation of the manner in which acts of computation are abstracted to more structuralrealms. Sfard and Linchevski (1994) describe reiﬁcation:
The ability to perceive mathematics in this dual way (as an action and as an object) makesthe universe of abstract ideas into the image of the material world: like in real life, theactions performed here have their ‘raw materials’ and their products in the form of entitiesthat are treated as genuine, permanent objects. Unlike in real life, however, a closer look at these entities will reveal that they cannot be separated from the processes themselves asself-sustained beings. Such abstract objects like
2, or the function 3
1 aretheresultsof adifferent wayof looking ontheprocedures of extractingthesquareroot from
1, of subtracting 2, and of mapping the real numbers onto themselves through a lineartransformation, respectively. Thus, mathematical objects are an outcome of reiﬁcation – of our mind’s eye’s ability to envision the result of processes as permanent entities in theirown right (pp. 193–194).
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