On the persuasiveness of visual arguments in mathematics

2011-07-05T15:10:05Z (GMT) by Matthew Inglis Juan P. Mejia-Ramos
Two experiments are reported which investigate the factors that influence how persuaded mathematicians are by visual arguments. We demonstrate that if a visual argument is accompanied by a passage of text which describes the image, both research-active mathematicians and successful undergraduate mathematics students perceive it to be significantly more persuasive than if no text is given. We suggest that mathematicians’ epistemological concerns about supporting a claim using visual images are less prominent when the image is described in words. Finally we suggest that empirical studies can make a useful contribution to our understanding of mathematical practice.