, Volume 62, Issue 2, pp 105-126

The Rationality Debate: Application of Cognitive Psychology to Mathematics Education

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Research in mathematics education usually attempts to look into students’ learning and other mental processes. It could therefore be expected to build on knowledge acquired within the academic discipline of cognitive psychology. Our aim in this paper is to show how some recent developments in cognitive psychology can help interpret empirical results from mathematics education. In particular, we will be looking into the heuristics-and-biases research by Kahneman and Tversky, the alternative views by Gigerenzer et al., and the more recent dual-process theory that has come to play a central role in interpreting this research. We first introduce the relevant background from cognitive psychology and survey its connections to previous work in mathematics education; then we apply this theoretical framework for re-interpreting previously-published empirical data from mathematics education research. We conclude with a discussion of potential theoretical and practical benefits of such synthesis.