On the relations between historical epistemology and students’ conceptual developments in mathematics
Journal article, 2015

There is an ongoing discussion within the research field of mathematics education regarding the utilization of the history of mathematics within mathematics education. In this paper we consider problems that may emerge when the historical epistemology of mathematics is paralleled to students’ conceptual developments in mathematics. We problematize this attempt to link the two fields on the basis of Grattan-Guinness’ distinction between “history” and “heritage”. We argue that when parallelism claims are made, history and heritage are often mixed up, which is problematic since historical mathematical definitions must be interpreted in its proper historical context and conceptual framework. Furthermore, we argue that cultural and local ideas vary at different time periods, influencing conceptual developments in different directions regardless of whether historical or individual developments are considered, and thus it may be problematic to uncritically assume a platonic perspective. Also, we have to take into consideration that an average student of today and great mathematicians of the past are at different cognitive levels.

Epistemology of mathematics


Mathematics education

History and heritage

History of mathematics


Kajsa Bråting

Uppsala University

Johanna Pejlare

University of Gothenburg

Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Mathematics

Educational Studies in Mathematics

0013-1954 (ISSN) 1573-0816 (eISSN)

Vol. 89 2 251-265

Subject Categories


Other Mathematics



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