Professor
Department of Mathematics Education

sfard@netvision.net.il



I conduct research and teach in the domain of learning sciences, with particular focus on the relation between thinking and communication. Through the study of mathematical thinking and its growth, I aim to contribute to our understanding of human development, on the one hand, and to the practice of learning and teaching mathematics, on the other.

My work is guided by the assumption that thinking is a form of communication. Inspired mainly by the work of Wittgenstein and Vygotsky, this non-dualist tenet implies that discursivity – the fact that all our activities are either purely communicational or imbued with and shaped by discourse – is the hallmark of our humanity. Our inclusions in certain discourse communities and exclusions from some others are what situates us socially and culturally and defines us as human beings. Our discourses are also repositories of complexity that underlie our ability to build on achievements of previous generations rather than beginning every time anew. Based on these understandings, mathematics becomes a discourse – a well defined, unique form of communication. Here, the gradual accumulation of complexity can be seen with particular clarity. In my empirical work, I use specially designed forms of discourse analysis to observe the processes of discursive growth both in individual learning and along history. Another question that guides my research is that of how the learning of mathematics is influenced by other discourses, e.g. those of cultural values and identity; and vice versa, how mathematics infiltrates other discourses and, in result, tacitly influences also those aspects of our lives that seem to have little to do with anything mathematical.