, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 621–633 | Cite as

An essential tension in mathematics education

  • Luis Moreno-ArmellaEmail author
Original Article


There is a problem that goes through the history of calculus: the tension between the intuitive and the formal. Calculus continues to be taught as if it were natural to introduce the study of change and accumulation by means of the formalized ideas and concepts known as the mathematics of ε and δ. It is frequently considered as a failure that “students still seem to conceptualize limits via the imagination of motion.” These kinds of assertions show the tension, the rift created by traditional education between students’ intuitions and a misdirected formalization. In fact, I believe that the internal connections of the intuition of change and accumulation are not correctly translated into that arithmetical approach of ε and δ. There are other routes to formalization which cohere with these intuitions, and those are the ones discussed in this paper. My departing point is epistemic and once this discussion is put forward, I produce a narrative of classroom work, giving a special place to local conceptual organizations.


Variation Infinitesimal Infinite Archimedean principle Symbol Intuition Formalization Continuum Limit Derivative 


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Copyright information

© FIZ Karlsruhe 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CinvestavMexicoMexico

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