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The Roles of Mathematical Metaphors and Gestures in the Understanding of Abstract Mathematical Concepts

Abstract / Synopsis

When a new mathematical idea is presented to students in terms of abstract mathematical symbols, they may have difficulty to grasp it. This difficulty arises because abstract mathematical symbols do not directly refer to concretely perceivable objects. But, when the same content is presented in the form of a graph or a gesture that depicts that graph, it is often much easier to grasp. The process of solving a complex mathematical problem can also be facilitated with the use of a graphical representation. Transforming a mathematical problem or concept into a graphical representation is a common problem solving strategy, and we may view it as a kind of mathematical metaphor, which is common strategy for solving mathematical problems. This process is a metaphor because, in the sense that a certain representation of a mathematical problem is described in terms of a visual representation of that problem. Furthermore, since a graphical representation is visual, it can be depicted by gestures. Therefore, visual and motor systems can be actively employed to process a given problem and find a solution for it. In this way, mathematical metaphor offers us a way to employ a wider range of cognitive resources to understand mathematics.

DOI

10.5642/jhummath.BZXW2115