Educational Studies in Mathematics

, Volume 94, Issue 3, pp 241–256 | Cite as

Guiding reinvention of conventional tools of mathematical logic: students’ reasoning about mathematical disjunctions

  • Paul Christian DawkinsEmail author
  • John Paul Cook


Motivated by the observation that formal logic answers questions students have not yet asked, we conducted exploratory teaching experiments with undergraduate students intended to guide their reinvention of truth-functional definitions for basic logical connectives. We intend to reframe the relationship between reasoning and logic by showing how logic emerges within students’ mathematical activity. This activity entails reflecting on and systematizing their own language use across diverse semantic content. We present categories of students’ untrained strategies for assessing the truth-values for mathematical disjunctions. Students’ initial reasoning heavily reflected content-specific and pragmatic factors in ways inconsistent with the norms and conventions of mathematical logic. Despite this, all student groups reinvented the standard truth-functional definition for simple disjunctions. We demonstrate how this learning depended upon particular forms of reasoning about logic. We also contrast various strategies for assessing quantified disjunctions and their different affordances in students’ mathematical activity.


Truth-functional logic Guided reinvention Disjunctions Reasoning about logic Quantification 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mathematical SciencesNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA
  2. 2.Department of MathematicsOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA

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