Trninic, D., & Abrahamson, D. (2012, May/June). Body of knowledge: Rethinking mathematical concepts as signified embodied procedures. 

Paper presented at “Rethinking Cognitive Development”—the 42nd annual meeting of the Jean Piaget Society, Toronto, May 31 – June 2.

ABSTRACT: We present a novel theoretical framework for articulating the relation between performance and understanding across the disciplines. The framework, which intersects embodiment and sociocultural theory, hinges on juxtaposing epistemological assumptions and pedagogical practices in explicitly embodied disciplines (e.g., dance) with those in implicitly embodied disciplines (e.g., mathematics). Researchers of mathematics learning have viewed physical performance as an unrefined precursor to understanding en route to its abstraction as conceptual structures. In contrast, the explicitly embodied domains view understanding as emerging inthroughabout, and for performance. We develop the framework in the context of an empirical design-based research project investigating the emergence of conceptual mathematical understanding from perceptuomotor interaction strategy. As such, we propose two complementary constructs. An embodied artifact is a rehearsed physical performance serving as a resource for prospective coping with a particular class of situations through coupling with the world. A conceptual performance is a disciplinarily signified embodied artifact that serves as a notion’s grounding referent. Such an approach may dissolve the barrier between procedures and concepts, performance and understanding: instead of emphasizing procedural fluency and conceptual understanding as separate aspects of disciplinary competence, we hone the constructs’ distinctions along semiotic lines and outline somatic-to-semiotic learning trajectories.