Brown Bag Lecture Series: Arthur Powell

Wednesday, January 23, 2019 11:45am - 1:00pm

GSE Lecture Hall (room 124)

Brown Bag Lecture Series

Fractions as Natural Numbers: Epistemology and Pedagogical Consequences

Arthur B. Powell

Rutgers University - Newark

Fraction knowledge is crucial for success in algebra and higher mathematics. Nevertheless, both conceptual and procedural understandings of fractions escape the competency of students and teachers alike. Recent neurocognitive research, however, indicates that humans are hardwired to discern the relative magnitudes of nonsymbolic ratios or fractions. How then is it the case that fraction knowledge failure is globally widespread? This state of affairs coincides with three essential conceptual problems in mathematics education: (1) insufficient understanding that, like whole numbers, fractions are natural numbers; (2) dominant epistemology of fraction knowledge is mathematically and psychologically insufficient as a foundation for ideas about fractions; and (3) dearth of investigations about pedagogical approaches that invite learners to bridge the gulf between nonsymbolic and symbolic fraction representations. Dr. Powell will present the outlines of an investigation that addresses these three problems to enhance learners’ understanding of nonsymbolic and symbolic fraction magnitude. Long term, the results may provide a means to widen demographic participation in STEM fields and, thereby, enrich scientific collaborations.


Arthur B. Powell, Professor, Department of Urban Education, Rutgers University-Newark. He teaches, publishes and conducts research in mathematics education. His books (coedited and co-authored) are Math: A Rich Heritage (1995, Globe Fearon); Ethnomathematics: Challenging Eurocentrism in Mathematics Education (1997, SUNY); A Escrita e o Pensamento Matemático: Interações e Potencialidades [Writing and Mathematical Thinking: Interactions and Potentialities] (2006, Papirus); Culturally Responsive Mathematics Education (2009, Routledge); Combinatorics and Reasoning: Representing, Justifying and Building Isomorphisms (2010, Springer); and Métodos de pesquisa em educação matemática - Usando escrita, vídeo e internet [Research methods in Mathematics Education – Using writing, video, and the Internet] (2015, Mercado de Letras). He is Associate Director of the Robert B. Davis Institute for Learning and directs the Research Group on Communication, Technology, and Mathematics Learning, Rutgers University-Newark. He was Co-Chair, AERA SIG/Research in Mathematics Education, and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in mathematics education, technology, and qualitative research methods.

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Who to contact:

Colleen McDermott