For centuries it has been assumed that the study of advanced mathematics improves logical thinking skills. Even today, this argument (known as the 'Theory of Formal Discipline') is used in policy debates to prioritise mathematics in the UK's National Curriculum. So far, however, there has been no conclusive evidence that the claim is actually true (and some suggestive evidence that it may not be). The research that will be presented in this session aimed to test the Theory of Formal Discipline by tracking the development of three aspects of logical reasoning in A level students: conditional inference ability, syllogistic reasoning ability, and avoidance of belief bias. Mathematics students were compared to English Literature students at the beginning and end of their year of AS study. The mathematics students did improve more than the English Literature students in conditional inference and syllogistic reasoning, but not in avoidance of belief bias. This suggests that while there is some truth to the Theory of Formal Discipline, further research is needed to narrow down exactly which reasoning skills are improved by studying mathematics and which are not.
|Publication status||Published - 19 Nov 2011|
|Event||Day Conference of the British Society for Research into the Learning of Mathematics - Oxford, UK United Kingdom|
Duration: 26 Nov 2011 → 26 Nov 2011
|Conference||Day Conference of the British Society for Research into the Learning of Mathematics|
|Country||UK United Kingdom|
|Period||26/11/11 → 26/11/11|
Attridge, N. F., & Inglis, M. (2011). The development of deductive reasoning skills in A level mathematics students. Paper presented at Day Conference of the British Society for Research into the Learning of Mathematics, Oxford, UK United Kingdom.