Mathematicians' perspectives on the teaching and learning of proof

2011-10-14T13:53:50Z (GMT) by Lara Alcock
This paper reports on an exploratory study of mathematicians' views on the teaching and learning that occurs in a course designed to introduce students to mathematical reasoning and proof. Based on a sequence of interviews with five mathematicians experienced in teaching the course, I identify four modes of thinking that these professors indicate are used by successful provers. I term these instantiation, structural thinking, creative thinking and critical thinking. Through the mathematicians' comments, I explain these modes and highlight ways in which students sometimes fail to use them effectively. I then discuss teaching strategies described by the participants, relating these to the four modes of thinking. I argue that teaching aimed at improving structural thinking tends to dominate, and that courses that introduce proof, regardless of classroom organization, should address all four modes in a balanced and integrated way.