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Playing with representations – Children’s pathways through mathematical discoveries


This is a hybrid event; attendees can either join in person or on Zoom. If the latter, please click on the 'Register for this event' button in the top right corner of this webpage, and fill in the form to receive the Zoom link.

If you would prefer to attend in person, the seminar will take place in Room G/8, in the Waterloo Bridge Wing of Franklin Wilkins Building, King's College London, Stamford Street, SE1 9NH. If you are not a member of CRESTEM, please email to RSVP.

Places are limited; please register early to avoid disappointment.


Mathematics is like playing with representations. In this process of mathematical activity, all representations change, revealing new paths and connections that previously remained undiscovered. The process of playing with representations is socially normed and based on commonly accepted rules. Children do not yet know these rules to a large extent and learn them through their own play with their representations. In this process, the changes in representations depend on their own previously learned space of possibilities.

However, the question arises as to how children can discover something new if they can only perceive changes within the framework of their previously learned space of possibilities? How are mathematical insights possible in playing with representations when only familiar things can be accessed?

In the talk, this paradox of mathematical learning will be taken up and illuminated from a semiotic-pragmatic approach. For this purpose, learners will be observed in the process of solving problems and the influence of representations will be analysed with the help of the eye-tracking method. Results on playing with representations show how associations, which lead to new connections of known things, drive the process of discovery. Special attention is paid to the moments before a new mathematical insight is made.


Speaker: Sebastian Schorcht

Prof Sebastian Schorcht, an expert at TUD Dresden University of Technology, focuses on external mathematical representations in mathematics education. His research encompasses the history of mathematical representation, current mathematical representation within children's learning and possibilities within education-based representation in primary schools of tomorrow.

Prof Schorcht studied at the University of Siegen and the TU Dortmund University, focusing on Mathematics, German, and History for primary and secondary school education. He conducted research and taught at the Justus-Liebig-University Giessen within the areas of textbook research, history of mathematics in education, and the promotion of mathematically gifted children in mathematical problem-solving. Committed to problem-solving and nurturing gifted children, he established a successful annual course at different universities since 2012.

Prof Schorcht served as a teacher at a primary school in Cologne. He worked as a university lecturer at Justus-Liebig-University Giessen. In 2020/2021, he held the chair for Mathematics Education at Saarland University. Since 2022, he has been professor of Primary Education/ Mathematics Education at TUD Dresden University of Technology.

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