We investigate experienced high school geometry teachers’ perspectives on “authentic mathematics” and the much-criticized two-column proof form. A videotaped episode was shown to 26 teachers gathered in five focus groups. In the episode, a teacher allows a student doing a proof to assume a statement is true without immediately justifying it, provided he return to complete the argument later. Prompted by this episode, the teachers in our focus groups revealed two apparently contradictory dispositions regarding the use of the two-column proof form in the classroom. For some, the two-column form is understood to prohibit a move like that shown in the video. But for others, the form is seen as a resource enabling such a move. These contradictory responses are warranted in competing but complementary notions, grounded on the corpus of teacher responses, that teachers hold about the nature of authentic mathematical activity when proving.
Michael Weiss, Patricio Herbst and Chialing Chen (all from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) have written an interesting article about Teachers’ perspectives on “authentic mathematics” and the two-column proof form. The article was published online in Educational Studies in Mathematics on Friday. Here is the abstract: