Attentional Anchors: Grounding Mathematical Concepts in Perceptual Solutions to Motor Coordination Problems

RITMO visitor Dr. Dor Abrahamson from University of California Berkeley will give this week's first Food & Paper

RITMO emblem alongside photo of Dr. Dor Abrahamson playing a cello


Cognition, per the embodied turn in philosophy, is active goal-oriented perceptuomotor engagement with the actual and/or imaginary world. What about mathematical concepts? Getting a grip on the nature of mathematical thinking is critical when we come to design technological environments for mathematics learning. Based on mixed-methods analyses of empirical results from a decade-long international collaborative research program, I propose that mathematical concepts are grounded in perceptual orientations — “attentional anchors” — which emerge spontaneously to facilitate the coordinated enactment of movements that solve challenging motor-control problems. During the presentation, I will invite the audience to participate in activities that simulate the Mathematics Imagery Trainer, our technological architecture for implementing the action-based genre of the embodied-design framework. My objective is to occasion opportunities for the audience to experience firsthand(s) what attentional anchors are, and how they bridge from handling the world to mathematical discourse.


Dor Abrahamson (PhD, Learning Sciences, Northwestern University, 2004) is a Professor at the Graduate School of Education, University of California Berkeley, where he runs the Embodied Design Research Laboratory. Abrahamson is a design-based researcher who invents pedagogical technologies for teaching and learning mathematics. He analyzes data gathered in the course of evaluating these products to develop theoretical models of cognitive and social process leading to insight and fluency. Abrahamson is particularly interested in relations between learning to move in new ways and learning mathematics concepts. His research has been funded by federal agencies and private foundations. Otherwise, Dor enjoys playing the cello, hiking, biking, reading, and spending time with his family and pets.

Published May 16, 2022 10:51 AM - Last modified May 18, 2022 11:04 AM