Commognitive analyses of the learning and teaching of mathematics at university level: the case of discursive shifts in the study of calculus

Elena Nardi, Andreas Ryve, Erika Stadler, Olov Viirman

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50 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we outline the main tenets of the commognitive approach and we exemplify its application in studies that investigate the learning and teaching of mathematics at university level. Following an overview of such applications, we focus on three studies that explore fundamental discursive shifts often occurring in the early stages of studying Calculus. These shifts concern the lecturers' and students' communicative practices, routines of constructing mathematical objects and ways of resolving commognitive conflicts. We then propose that commognitive constructs such as subjectification can be deployed towards ‘scaling-up’ the hitherto fine-grained focus of commognitive analyses. Finally, we conclude with observing how the commognitive approach relates to constructs from other sociocultural approaches to research in university mathematics education, such as “legitimate peripheral participation” from the theory of Communities of Practice and “didactic contract” from the Theory of Didactic Situations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-198
Number of pages17
JournalResearch in Mathematics Education
Issue number2
Early online date13 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • university mathematics education
  • discourse
  • commognitive conflict
  • Calculus
  • functions

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