# Explicating *mathematical concept* and *mathematicalconception* as theoretical constructs for mathematics education research

## Abstract

Mathematical understanding continues to be one of the major goals of mathematics education. However, what is meant by “mathematical understanding” is underspecified. How can we operationalize the idea of mathematical understanding in research? In this article, I propose particular specifications of the terms *mathematical concept* and *mathematical conception* so that they may serve as useful constructs for mathematics education research. I discuss the theoretical basis of the constructs, and I examine the usefulness of these constructs in research and instruction, challenges involved in their use, and ideas derived from our experience using them in research projects. Finally, I provide several examples of articulated mathematical concepts.

## Keywords

Mathematical concept Mathematical conception Mathematical understanding Mathematics learning Instructional goals## Notes

### Acknowledgments

This work is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1020154. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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