, Volume 37, Issue 1–2, pp 151–178 | Cite as

An Ode to Imre Lakatos: Quasi-Thought Experiments to Bridge the Ideal and Actual Mathematics Classrooms



This paper explores the wide range of mathematics content and processes that arise in the secondary classroom via the use of unusual counting problems. A universal pedagogical goal of mathematics teachers is to convey a sense of unity among seemingly diverse topics within mathematics. Such a goal can be accomplished if we could conduct classroom discourse that conveys the Lakatosian (thought-experimental) view of mathematics as that of continual conjecture-proof-refutation which involves rich mathematizing experiences. I present a pathway towards this pedagogical goal by presenting student insights into an unusual counting problem and by using these outcomes to construct ideal mathematical possibilities (content and process) for discourse. In particular, I re-construct the quasi-empirical approaches of six!4-year old students’ attempts to solve this unusual counting problem and present the possibilities for mathematizing during classroom discourse in the imaginative spirit of Imre Lakatos. The pedagogical implications for the teaching and learning of mathematics in the secondary classroom and in mathematics teacher education are discussed.


Combinatorics conjecture counting generalization Lakatos mathematization mathematical structures pedagogy problem solving refutation teacher education 


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© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mathematical SciencesThe University of MontanaMissoulaU.S.A.

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