Synthesis and Design Workshop: The Future of Embodied Design for Mathematical Imagination and Cognition


PI: Mitchell Nathan
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Award Details

This workshop will convene May 20-22, 2019 at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI
For more information or to apply, visit the workshop website

The next generation of digital learning environments for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) content will be more interactive, more personalized yet more collaborative; provide developers and teachers with rich, real time data from users to track engagement and support formative assessment; and target both conscious and unconscious learning processes. Embodied cognition research provides promising findings that show how body movement contributes to STEM education by allowing learners to physically engage with ideas, and by describing how teachers naturally use their bodies in ways such as gestures to enhance their instructional effectiveness. Mathematics education, in particular, can benefit from such innovation in embodied cognition because it serves as the connective representational “language” across the STEM fields. Technologies exist now that can track people’s movement in real time and provide feedback. Yet there is no current consensus on the best ways to design educational technology for supporting embodied cognition for mathematics education. The timing for motion capture technology, theories of embodied cognition, and interest among teachers for movement based educational innovations is ideal for bringing scholars and classroom practitioners together for a workshop on embodied design for mathematics education. During a 3-day workshop at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the spring of 2019, teachers and research scholars will gather to discuss ways in which new computer technologies support embodied approaches for improved math education. The workshop participants examine learning in and out of school, but with a focus on the design of systems for promoting embodied ways of learning and teaching in classroom settings.

Embodied design for mathematics education, a research-oriented pedagogical design framework rooted in theories of embodiment and design-based research as practiced within the learning sciences, supports the improvement of instructional methodology for students’ mathematical proficiency in the classroom. Currently there is a convergence of theoretical, technological, and methodological developments in formation that make this a particularly promising time to support advancements in embodied design for mathematics education. The workshop will bring research scholars and classroom teachers together in order to achieve four central objectives: (1) synthesize current research into a coherent theory of embodied mathematical imagination and cognition, (2) identify the most promising opportunities for conceptual and methodological integration, (3) curate a set of evidence-based design principles for enhancing mathematics education and broadening participation in all STEM fields, and (4) articulate a future research agenda in the growing area of embodied cognition. This workshop will assemble an interdisciplinary set of scholars from education research, cognitive science, the learning sciences, developmental psychology, movement science, linguistics, computer science, and mathematics. Presentations and discussions will span grades K through 16 on topics in arithmetic and algebra, proportional reasoning and fractions, geometry, complex numbers, statistics, and calculus. The workshop will bring together an intellectually and ethnically diverse group of scholars to synthesize the evidence for embodied design as a means to enhance mathematical reasoning and thereby promote STEM education and participation. The workshop organization will promote interdisciplinary research and theory building in the learning sciences and identify current challenges and future research efforts. The approach is tightly connected to the societal need to foster an educated and technically competent workforce. A particular emphasis on mathematics is intended to broaden participation in math and STEM by creating new entry points for historically underserved ethnic, racial, economic, and gender groups.

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