In many schools across the world, students experience mathematical concepts as ideas empty of wisdom and possibility. In this paper the authors analyze a philosophical conversation in which fifth-grade students were caught up in the animacy of the concept of space. Challenging the common view of mathematics as dealing with absolute truths and certainty, these students, the materials, and the concept itself formed dynamic assemblages that, through movement and the senses reanimated philosophical considerations regarding the concept of space. Over the course of an hour, students emerged as young philosophers whose ideas about space converged with those of philosophers from diverse fields, including physics, indigenous education, feminist theory, and dance. Using a philosophical analysis, the paper focuses on the vibrancy of a space filled with forces—images, movement, ideas, and materials—that shaped students’ relationships with mathematics and language. Based on this analysis, the paper provides insights for reimagining the teaching and learning of mathematical concepts as philosophical topics that can support a renewed understanding of the relationship between learner, language, and mathematics.
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This article is based on research supported by National Science Foundation, NSF Grant no. 1253822. Any findings, claims, or recommendations in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.
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Dominguez, H., Abreu, S. & Peralta, M. Young philosophers: fifth-grade students animating the concept of space. ZDM Mathematics Education 55, 1151–1171 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11858-023-01483-6