The matter of math: Guiding the blind to touch the Pythagorean theorem

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Science teaching relies heavily on visual illustrations and visually organized assignments as methods of teaching and proving concepts like the Pythagorean theorem. As Visually Impaired Persons (VIPs) cannot see, they derive no benefit from the use of such illustrations alone. Often, material objects are used to help VIPs understand mathematical concepts by means of tactile and haptic perception. In this paper, I will show the practices employed in the pursuit of transforming a visually available material object into something of specific scientific relevance for tactile and haptic exploration. This article thus emphasizes the matter – in the original sense of materiality – of math. Based on video-recorded data, this paper provides an in-depth interactional analysis of a single case in which a VIP engages in a mathematics learning situation with an assistant. This research is based on and contributes to ethnomethodology and conversation analysis by critically examining how objects are used to teach VIPs in math classes. The research has implications for a broadened understanding of how learning mathematics is not just a matter of logics, verbal descriptions or the visual analysis of charts and diagrams, but can also inherently involve the tangible materiality of mathematical representations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLearning, Culture and Social Interaction
Publication statusPublished - 2024

ID: 379348206