Rosenbaum, L. F., Palatnik, A., Reimer, P., & Abrahamson, D. (in press). Building mathematical spaces through multi-faceted, body-scale geometry.

Educational Designer, 4(16).

ABSTRACT: In the course of conducting educational design research, new learning activities may emerge, sometimes serendipitously, that resonate with educators’ intuitive understandings of what learning could and should be like. Articulating these activities’ “secret sauce” could enable the creation of similar educational activities. This article examines one such activity from mathematics education research, the Embodied Icosahedron activity, which numerous practitioners have described as an ideal mathematics learning experience. To characterize the activity’s appeal, we first document how this activity was disseminated across education research, teacher education, professional development, classroom, and community settings. Next, we present and analyze interviews with educators who facilitated the activity in each of these educational contexts. At the intersection of these multiple testimonies, analysis reveals, is a shared appreciation of three design qualities: body-scale movement, authentic embedding of disciplinary content within an activity, and realizations of constructionist pedagogical philosophy. The realization of these qualities within a mathematics activity – a domain renowned for reputation as abstract, impersonal, and boring – suggests a particularly promising approach to educational design; to achieve inclusive, empowering mathematics education, we speculate, we should pursue the design of authentic tasks at the intersection of mathematics and existing practices that already engender those types of transformative interaction.

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