Encyclopedia of Mathematics Education

2020 Edition
| Editors: Stephen Lerman

Situated Cognition in Mathematics Education

  • John MonaghanEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-15789-0_140


“Situated cognition” is a loose term for a variety of approaches, in education and in other fields of inquiry, that value context. Its advocates claim that how one thinks is tied to a situation. “Situation” is another loose term; it may refer to a place (a classroom or a laboratory), but a situation may also reside in relationships with people and/or artifacts, e.g., “I am with friends” and “I am at my computer.” This entry briefly considers the history of situated approaches before looking at the development of situated schools of thought in mathematics education. It then considers “knowing” and, briefly, research methodologies, implication for teaching, and critiques of situated cognition.



Marx’s 11th thesis on Feuerbach, “Social life is essentially practical. All mysteries … find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.” (Marx 1845/1968, p. 30), remains a statement that few, if any, situated...


Context Knowing/knowledge Learning Participation Situation Transfer 
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Anderson JR, Reder LM, Simon HA (1996) Situated learning and education. Educ Res 25(4):5–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cole M (1996) Cultural psychology: a once and future discipline. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  3. Engle R (2006) Framing interactions to foster generative learning: a situative explanation of transfer in a community of learners classroom. J Learn Sci 15(4):451–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Greeno J (1994) Gibson’s affordances. Psychol Rev 101(2):336–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Greiffenhagen C, Sharrock W (2008) School mathematics and its everyday other? Revisiting Lave’s ‘cognition in practice’. Educ Stud Math 69:1–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Kanes C, Lerman S (2007) Analysing concepts of community of practice. In: Watson A, Winbourne P (eds) New directions for situated cognition in mathematics education. Springer, New York, pp 303–328Google Scholar
  7. Lave J (1988) Cognition in practice. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Lave J, Wenger E (1991) Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Magajna Z, Monaghan J (2003) Advanced mathematical thinking in a technological workplace. Educ Stud Math 52(2):101–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Marx K (1845/1968) Theses on Feuerbach. In: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: selected works in one volume. Lawrence and Wishart, London, pp 28–30Google Scholar
  11. Masingila J, Davidenko S, Prus-Wisniowska E (1996) Mathematics learning and practice in and out of school: a framework for connecting these experiences. Educ Stud Math 31(1–2):175–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Nunes T, Dias A, Carraher D (1993) Street mathematics and school mathematics. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  13. Saxe G (1991) Culture and cognitive development: studies in mathematical understanding. Lawrence Erlbaum, HillsdaleGoogle Scholar
  14. Walkerdine V (1997) Redefining the subject in situated cognition theory. In: Kirshner D, Whitson A (eds) Situated cognition: social, semiotic and psychological perspectives. Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah, pp 57–70Google Scholar
  15. Winbourne P, Watson A (1998) Participating in learning mathematics through shared local practices in classrooms. In: Watson A (ed) Situated cognition and the learning of mathematics. Centre for Mathematics Education Research, Oxford, pp 93–104Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK