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Proof and proving in school and university mathematics education research: a systematic review

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Stylianides, Gabriel J.  ORCID logo
Stylianides, Andreas J.  ORCID logo
Moutsios-Rentzos, Andreas  ORCID logo


This systematic review aims to provide a complementary to existing synopses of the state-of-the-art of mathematics education research on proof and proving in both school and university mathematics. As an organizing framework, we used Cohen et al.’s triadic conceptualization of instruction, which draws attention not only to the main actors of the didactical process (i.e., the Teacher and Students) and the Content around which the actors’ work is organized (herein, content related to proof and proving), but also to the relationships among the actors and the content. Out of the 103 papers we reviewed, almost half fell in the Student-Content category, which is consistent with the existence of a substantial number of frameworks, methods, and research findings related to students’ engagement with proof and proving. About a quarter of the papers fell in the Student–Teacher-Content category, which reflects an emphasis on viewing instructional practice in proof and proving in a holistic, systemic way. Only few papers fell in the categories that did not include Content in them, namely, the categories of Student, Teacher, and Student–Teacher; this suggests mathematics education research on proof and proving has a strong disciplinary identity, which potentially differentiates it from other mathematics education research strands. About a fifth of the papers were oriented towards ‘breaking ground’ through making an explicit theoretical and/or methodological contribution (Student–Teacher-Content and Content were the main categories where such contributions appeared), whilst the majority of the papers were focused on ‘building ground’ through elaborating or employing existing methodological and/or theoretical approaches.



University, Systematic review, Proof, Teacher education, School, Proving, Instruction

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ZDM – Mathematics Education

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Springer Berlin Heidelberg
John Fell Fund, University of Oxford (0005970)