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Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited$
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Catelijne Coopman, Janet Vertesi, Michaeland Lynch, and Steve Woolgar

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262525381

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262525381.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 25 May 2022

Chalk: Materials and Concepts in Mathematics Research

Chalk: Materials and Concepts in Mathematics Research

(p.107) 6 Chalk: Materials and Concepts in Mathematics Research
Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited

Michael J. Barany

Donald MacKenzie

The MIT Press

This chapter devotes close empirical attention to the social and material achievement of proofs, theorems, and other mathematical constructions. Mathematics is often treated as the most abstract and idealized of human practices, so that mathematicians’ words, gestures, handwriting, and chalkboard marking appear to be merely incidental and secondary ways of expressing and conveying mathematical truths. In contrast to that view, the chapter argues that mathematical concepts do not speak for themselves, and that mundane communicative practices and tools provide carefully circumscribed surrogates for idealized mathematical phenomena. Though blackboards are primarily used for teaching and seminars, their material, visual, and narrative features extend across all areas of mathematics pedagogy and research. These features, in many ways analogous to inscriptions and demonstrations in the natural science, also permit an account of the distinctive uses and meanings of formal representations in the mathematical sciences.

Keywords:   Mathematics as material practice, Blackboard, Mathematical proving, Mathematics seminars, Formalisms and practice, Inscription and creativity, Formalisms and translation

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