Argumentation and proofs in elementary calculus


Ferdinando Arzarello and Cristina Sabena have written an article entitled Semiotic and theoretic control in argumentation and proof activities. This article was recently published online in Educational Studies in Mathematics. Here is an abstract of their article:

We present a model to analyze the students’ activities of argumentation and proof in the graphical context of Elementary Calculus. The theoretical background is provided by the integration of Toulmin’s structural description of arguments, Peirce’s notions of sign, diagrammatic reasoning and abduction, and Habermas’ model for rational behavior. Based on empirical qualitative analysis we identify three different kinds of semiotic actions featuring the organization of the argumentations, and related to different epistemological status of the arguments. In such semiotic actions, the students’ argumentation and proof activities are managed and guided according to two intertwined modalities of control, which we call semiotic and theoretic control. The former refers to decisions concerning the selection and implementation of semiotic resources; the latter refers to decisions concerning the selection and implementation of a more or less explicit theory or parts of it. The structure of the model allows us to pinpoint a dialectical dynamics between the two.