Abrahamson, D. (in press). Enactivist learning: grounding mathematics concepts in emergent perception for action.

In G. Poizat, J. San Martin, L. Renault, & N. Perrin (Eds.), Enactive perspective(s) and learning sciences [Special issue]. Intellectica.

ABSTRACT: Harnad’s symbol-grounding problem launches a quest to found a new Learning Sciences paradigm innovating and evaluating pedagogical resources that enable students to develop meaning for mathematical concepts. A proposed paradigm, embodied design, integrates design-based research efforts to innovate interactive resources, facilitation methodologies, multimodal learning analytics, and empirical findings all resonant with Varela’s enactivist tenets of cognitive epigenesis. These tenets, we argue, readily inform a heuristic design framework, which we then exemplify with the Mathematics Imagery Trainer, an interactive technological architecture that occasions opportunities for students to develop new conceptual choreographies grounding curricular content. Solving motor-control problems, students first discover attentional anchors, dynamic perceptual structures mediating task-effective coordinated action; they then use available mathematical instruments as frames of action and reference to enhance the enactment, evaluation, and explanation of these solution strategies, thus shifting into disciplinary discourse, where the attentional anchor serves as a percept-to-concept pivot—from doing to thinking-about doing. With its emphasis on learning through sensorimotor exploration, embodied design caters to mathematical practice inclusive of students with sensory, motor, and cultural differences.

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