New Course: Math 499: The Foundations of Mathematics and the Acquisition of Mathematical Knowledge

If you would like to reserve a spot in this course, please sign up here:

This is an extremely unique course, which will involve field experiences with high school students, lots of groupwork, and very little lecture.

In this course we will use K-12 mathematics as a conduit for under-standing the nature of mathematical thought, argument, and problem solving, how humans acquire mathematical knowledge, and how to best teach this material to children.

We will revisit K-12 mathematics from the point of view of a mathematician. We will explore the roles of metaphors, models, and definitions. We will discuss the use of symbols and see that even in mathematics their meanings are often contextual. We will compare and contrast proofs and convincing arguments and think about the roles they play in developing and understanding mathematics. We will discuss the relationship between mathematics and our physical world and how we use mathematics to understand the physical world. We will consider various algorithms common in K-12 math and discuss why and how they work.

We will read and discuss the literature on how K-12 mathematics is taught and how we learn and process mathematical knowledge.

There will be very little lecturing. There will be a lot of discussion, group work, and both oral and written presentations. There will be a service learning component, in which we work with students at Augustus Hawkins High School. This is a new school with a modern curriculum, implementing an initiative called the Algebra Project.

This class has no prerequisites. In particular, it is not necessary to have taken any college level math classes; you are only expected to know how to count (albeit fairly well!) However, students must be willing to engage with the material at a mathematically sophisticated level.

This class will be valuable for math majors, anyone with a potential interest in teaching mathematics, and sociology and psychology majors interested in the science of learning.

Due to a glitch with the math department, the official course registration is delayed. If you are interested in taking this course in Spring 2015, then please submit your name and email here (, or email and we will notify you when you can officially register.




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