Explicating mathematical concept and mathematicalconception as theoretical constructs for mathematics education research

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Mathematical understanding continues to be one of the major goals of mathematics education. However, what is meant by “mathematical understanding” is underspecified. How can we operationalize the idea of mathematical understanding in research? In this article, I propose particular specifications of the terms mathematical concept and mathematical conception so that they may serve as useful constructs for mathematics education research. I discuss the theoretical basis of the constructs, and I examine the usefulness of these constructs in research and instruction, challenges involved in their use, and ideas derived from our experience using them in research projects. Finally, I provide several examples of articulated mathematical concepts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-137
Number of pages21
JournalEducational Studies in Mathematics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017



  • Instructional goals
  • Mathematical concept
  • Mathematical conception
  • Mathematical understanding
  • Mathematics learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics(all)
  • Education

Cite this