Cognitive Science and Mathematics Education

By Alan H. Schoenfeld | Go to book overview

1
Cognitive Science and Mathematics Education: An Overview

Alan H. Schoenfeld Education and Mathematics The University of California--Berkeley

Twenty-five years ago the phrase "cognitive science" and the field it describes were virtually unknown. Then, at first sporadically and later increasingly through the 1960s and 1970s, an amalgam of researchers from different disciplines, all with common interests in "how the mind works," began to take shape. (For those with an interest in the history of the discipline, Howard Gardner ( 1985) The Mind's New Science provides a generally accepted outline of the development of the field.) The cognitive science society was formed in the mid-1970s and its journal, Cognitive Science, first appeared in 1977. The journal's 1984 self-description, which appears on its inside back cover, provides a good definition of the field and the range of topics that are considered central to it:

Cognitive Science is an interdisciplinary journal. It publishes articles . . . on topics such as the representation of knowledge, language processing, image processing, question answering, inference, learning and memory, problem solving, and planning. . . . [It publishes] theoretical analyses of knowledge representation and cognitive processes, experimental studies, . . . descriptions of intelligent [computer] programs that exhibit or model some human ability, protocol or discourse analysis, . . .

Much or all of the foregoing may seem far from the everyday concerns of mathematics educators. (By "mathematics educator" I mean anyone with a primary interest in the teaching and learning of mathematics. Thus mathematics teachers at all levels and researchers in mathematics education are among those designated by the label.) Indeed, some of the things that cognitive scientists do--for example, spending as many as 100 hours

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