Theories and practical perspectives on fostering embodied abstraction in primary school geometry education

Authors Karel Boonstra, Marjolein Kool, Anna Shvarts, Paul Drijvers
Published in Frontiers in Education
Publication date 2023
Research groups Mathematical and analytical competence of professionals
Type Article


To reach for abstraction is a major but challenging goal in mathematics education: teachers struggle with finding ways how to foster abstraction in their classes. To shed light on this issue for the case of geometry education, we align theoretical perspectives on embodied learning and abstraction with practical perspectives from in-service teachers. We focus on the teaching and learning of realistic geometry, not only because this domain is apt for sensori-motor action investigations, but also because abstraction in realistic geometry is under-researched in relation to other domains of mathematics, and teachers’ knowledge of geometry and confidence in teaching it lag behind. The following research question will be addressed: how can a theoretical embodied perspective on abstraction in geometry education in the higher grades of primary school inform current teacher practices? To answer this question, we carried out a literature study and an interview study with in-service teachers (n = 6). As a result of the literature study, we consider embodied abstraction in geometry as a process of reflecting on, describing, explaining, and structuring of sensory-motor actions in the experienced world through developing and using mathematical artifacts. The results from the interview study show that teachers are potentially prepared for using aspects of embodied learning (e.g., manipulatives), but are not aware of the different aspects of enactment that may invite students’ abstraction. We conclude that theories on embodiment and abstraction do not suffice to foster students’ abstraction process in geometry. Instead, teachers’ knowledge of embodied abstraction in geometry and how to foster this grows with experience in enactment, and with the discovery that cognition emerges to serve action.

On this publication contributed

  • Marjolein Kool | Researcher | Research group Mathematics Education
    Marjolein Kool
    • Researcher
    • Research group: Mathematical and analytical competence of professionals

Language English
Published in Frontiers in Education
Year and volume 2023 8
Key words mathematics education, geometry education, abstraction
Digital Object Identifier 10.3389/feduc.2023.1162681