Diagrammatic Reasoning as the Basis for Developing Concepts: A Semiotic Analysis of Students' Learning about Statistical Distribution

Educational Studies in Mathematics 60:333–358 (2005)
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In recent years, semiotics has become an innovative theoretical framework in mathematics education. The purpose of this article is to show that semiotics can be used to explain learning as a process of experimenting with and communicating about one's own representations of mathematical problems. As a paradigmatic example, we apply a Peircean semiotic framework to answer the question of how students learned the concept of "distribution" in a statistics course by "diagrammatic reasoning" and by developing "hypostatic abstractions," that is by forming new mathematical objects which can be used as means for communication and further reasoning. Peirce's semiotic terminology is used as an alternative for notions such as modeling, symbolizing, and reification. We will show that it is a precise instrument of analysis with regard to the complexity of learning and of communication in mathematics classroom

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Michael H. G. Hoffmann
Georgia Institute of Technology


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