The role of mathematical symbols in the development of number conceptualization: The case of the Minus sign

Philosophical Psychology 21 (4):555 – 570 (2008)
In mathematics education, students' difficulties with negative numbers are well known. To explain these difficulties, researchers traditionally refer to obstacles raised by the concept of NEGATIVE NUMBERS itself throughout its historical evolution. In order to improve our understanding, I propose to take into consideration another point of view, based on Vygotsky's principles, which define a strong relationship between signs such as language or symbols and cognitive development. I show how it is of great interest to consider students' difficulties with negatives in the light of the use of symbols, in particular the minus sign. I describe the results of an empirical study about students' strategies in solving arithmetical equations with negatives. My analysis shows that the problems raised by the presence of negatives in the equations are attributable to students' very restricted and often inadequate use of the minus sign, which prevents them from finding a negative solution or making sense of it.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 9,360
External links
  • Through your library Configure
    References found in this work BETA
    Citations of this work BETA
    Similar books and articles

    Monthly downloads

    Added to index


    Total downloads

    13 ( #100,552 of 1,088,874 )

    Recent downloads (6 months)

    2 ( #42,739 of 1,088,874 )

    How can I increase my downloads?

    My notes
    Sign in to use this feature

    Start a new thread
    There  are no threads in this forum
    Nothing in this forum yet.