November 2022

25th November

The lecture has been postponed to 16th December (4 pm – 5:30 pm, CET)

Alik Palatnik, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Seymour Fox School of Education, Israel

Title of the talk:

Embodied design for spatial geometry learning


Like Plato’s allegorical cave-dwellers, students of three-dimensional geometry seldom get to handle the real thing, working instead with two-dimensional silhouettes. Such historical sensory deprivation may partially explain students’ generally poor conceptual understanding of this core content and alienation from the field.

This talk suggests an alternative approach based on the conceptualization of constructing tangible models as embodied design for spatial geometry learning. I will present empirical results from a design-based research study inviting middle-school students to collaboratively construct and investigate voluminous objects.

In the first experimental activity, three students use a 3D pen to answer spatial geometry questions about a triangle inscribed in a cube. In the second experimental activity, four students construct a human-size model of a fractal tetrahedron and utilize available resources when exploring the volume and shape of an unfamiliar geometric body. In the second experimental activity, six students learned the properties of icosahedron by constructing and exploring physical models on different scales.

The analytical apparatus of Mason’s shifts of attention theory was used to investigate why and how using physical models can facilitate learning of (spatial) geometry. In all cases, students’ critical insights are characterized as shifts in perceptuomotor attention leading to the refinement of geometric argumentation.  I argue that students’ realization of available 3D medium affordances catalyzed these shifts. A dynamic of student collaboration was influenced by the evolution of collective multimodal perception and physical actions of students with and through the models. The findings contribute to a socio-material elaboration of embodied learning for school geometry.