Encyclopedia of Mathematics Education

2020 Edition
| Editors: Stephen Lerman

Zone of Proximal Development in Mathematics Education

  • Wolff-Michael RothEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-15789-0_156


The zone of proximal development is a category that emerged from the work of L. S. Vygotsky, the father of activity theory. Inspired by K. Marx, Vygotsky came to understand the specifically human characteristics in terms of society (Roth and Lee 2007). Explicitly referring to Marx, Vygotsky states that “any higher psychological function was external; this means it was social… the relation between higher psychological functions was at one time a physical relation between people” (Vygotsky 1989, p. 56). As a result of this perspective, our personalities are shaped by society: “the psychologicalnature of man is the totality of societal relations shifted to the inner sphere” (p. 59). Based on this understanding, he created a definition of the zone of proximal development that now has aphoristic qualities in educational circles. Thus, it denotes “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential...


Vygotsky Learning Development Expansion of agency Collective agency Activity theory 
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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Applied Cognitive ScienceUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Yoshinori Shimizu
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TsukubaGraduate School of Comprehensive Human ScienceTsukuba-shiJapan