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Cultural Development of Mathematical Ideas: Papua New Guinea Studies
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Cultural Development of Mathematical Ideas: Papua New Guinea Studies (Hardback)

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Synopsis

Drawing upon field studies conducted in 1978, 1980 and 2001 with the Oksapmin, a remote Papua New Guinea group, Geoffrey B. Saxe traces the emergence of new forms of numerical representations and ideas in the social history of the community. In traditional life, the Oksapmin used a counting system that makes use of twenty-seven parts of the body; there is no evidence that the group used arithmetic in prehistory. As practices of economic exchange and schooling have shifted, children and adults unwittingly reproduced and altered the system in order to solve new kinds of numerical and arithmetical problems, a process that has led to new forms of collective representations in the community. While Dr Saxe's focus is on the Oksapmin, the insights and general framework he provides are useful for understanding shifting representational forms and emerging cognitive functions in any human community.

Dr Geoffrey Saxe has conducted research on mathematical cognition and culture in a variety of settings, including remote parts of Papua New Guinea, urban and rural areas of northeastern Brazil and elementary and middle school classrooms in the United States. His prior books include Culture and Cognitive Development: Studies in Mathematical Understanding (1991) and Social Processes in Early Number Development (with S. Guberman and M. Gearhart, 1987). He is currently a professor at the Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley.

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