Rosen, D. M., Palatnik, A., & Abrahamson, D. (2016). Tradeoffs of situatedness: Iconicity constrains the development of content-oriented sensorimotor schemes. 

In M. B. Wood, E. E. Turner, M. Civil, & J. A. Eli (Eds.), Sin fronteras: Questioning borders with(in) mathematics education – Proceedings of the 38th annual meeting of the North-American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME-NA) (Vol. 12, “Technology”, pp. 1509-1516). Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona.

Mathematics education practitioners and researchers have long debated best pedagogical practices for introducing new concepts. Our design-based research project evaluated a heuristic framework, whereby students first develop acontextual sensorimotor schemes and only then extend these schemes to incorporate both concrete narratives (grounding) and formal mathematical rules (generalizing). We compared student performance under conditions of working with stark (acontextual) vs. iconic (situated) manipulatives. We summarize findings from analyzing 20 individually administered task-based semi-structured clinical interviews with Grade 4 – 6 participant students. We found tradeoffs of situatedness: Whereas iconic objects elicit richer narratives than stark objects, these narratives may detrimentally constrain the scope of potential sensorimotor schemes students develop in attempt to solve manipulation problems.