Towards a Comprehensive Conception of Mathematical Proof

Zakaria Ndemo, David. J. Mtetwa, Fred Zindi


There is overwhelming evidence that students face serious challenges in learning mathematical proof. Studies have found that students possess a superficial understanding of mathematical proof. With the aim of contributing to efforts intended to develop a comprehensive conception of mathematical proof, literature search was conducted to identify areas where research could be directed in order to increase proof understanding among students. To accomplish this goal, literature on modes of reasoning involved in proof construction, ideas on the classification of activities that constitute a proof path, and categories of proof understanding are exemplified using mathematical content drawn from Real Analysis. These exemplifications were used to illustrate the connections between modes of reasoning and levels of proof understanding. With regard to students’ fragile grasp of mathematical proof this critique of literature has revealed that many previous studies have given prominence to proof validations while there is lack of crucial interplay between structural and inductive modes of reasoning during proving by students. Hence, it is suggested in this paper that current research could also focus on mechanisms that promote an analytic conceptions of mathematical proof that are comprehensive enough to allow students to engage in more robust proof constructions.


mathematical proof, syntactic and semantic proof, comprehensive conception

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