The Argument for Argument: The Roles of Justification in Mathematics, Science, and the Humanities

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This paper characterizes how students and professionals create arguments and justifications in the three domains of mathematics, science, and the humanities. We present a theoretical framework that describes the similarities and differences between arguments in these three broad domains. Certainly what counts as a convincing argument within a particular field is based on the specific norms and practices and the nature of knowledge of that field. Nonetheless, work by Toulmin (1958) and Balacheff (1988) suggests that there may also be significant parallels between the uses of argument in these domains, particularly in the ways that evidence and examples are used to support claims. These similarities lead us to believe that there are elements of crafting arguments and justifications that transfer across these three domains. We hope that this theoretical framework will provide one piece of the puzzle about the successes and failures of students and professionals as they learn and communicate across disciplinary lines.


Keywords: Education, Mathematics, Science, Humanities, Proof, Justification, Argument, Reasoning, Learning Theory, Interdisciplinary, Epistemology
Stream: Psychology, Cognitive Science and Behavioural Sciences
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Rob Ely

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education, Mathematics, University of Idaho
Moscow, ID, USA

Dr. Rob Ely is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Idaho. He holds a Ph.D in Curriculum & Instruction and an M.A. in Mathematics, both from University of Wisconsin, and a B.A. in History and Mathematics from the University of Northern Colorado. His research focuses on the relationship between historical conceptions and student conceptions in mathematics, particularly the development of thinking about the infinite and the infinitesimal. He is also researching the relationship between student thinking and justifying in the domains of mathematics, science, and the humanities, and is excited to be teaching students about how mathematics influences music, philosophy, science, and religion, and vice versa.

Jerine Pegg

Assistant Professor of Science Education, Curriculum and Instruction, University of Idaho
Moscow, ID, USA

Dr. Jerine Pegg is an assistant professor in science education at the University of Idaho. Her research interests include student reasoning and the development of scientific explanations, curriculum integration, and professional development. She has coordinated professional development projects involving the integration of science and literacy, both at the elementary and secondary level, as well as conducting research in biology.

Rodney McConnell

Assistant Professor of Literacy Education, Curriculum and Instruction, University of Idaho
Moscow, ID, USA

Dr. Rodney McConnell, Assistant Professor of Secondary Language Arts at the University of Idaho, is a former high school English teacher who has provided professional development workshops in the Toulmin model of argumentation for elementary and secondary teachers. Besides secondary language arts education, Dr. McConnell also teaches content area literacy for secondary teachers. Dr. McConnell is currently conducting research in content area literacy for secondary math and science teachers.

Ref: I08P0349