The University of Montana
Department of Mathematical Sciences

Technical report #8/2010

Reconceptualizing mathematics education as a design science

Richard Lesh
School of Education
Indiana University

Bharath Sriraman
Dept. of Mathematical Sciences
The University of Montana


In this chapter we propose re-conceptualizing the field of mathematics education research as that of a design science akin to engineering and other emerging interdisciplinary fields which involve the interaction of “subjects”, conceptual systems and technology influenced by social constraints and affordances. Numerous examples from the history and philosophy of science and mathematics and ongoing findings of M&M research are drawn to illustrate our notion of mathematics education research as a design science. Our ideas are intended as a framework and do not constitute a “grand” theory. That is, we provide a framework (a system of thinking together with accompanying concepts, language, methodologies, tools, and so on) that provides structure to help mathematics education researchers develop both models and theories, which encourage diversity and emphasize Darwinian processes such as: (a) selection (rigorous testing), (b) communication (so that productive ways of thinking spread throughout relevant communities), and (c) accumulation (so that productive ways of thinking are not lost and get integrated into future developments).

Keywords: design sciences; engineering education; engineering sciences; models and modeling; theories of mathematics education

AMS Subject Classification: 97

Prepress version of Lesh, R., & Sriraman, B.(2010). Reconceptualizing mathematics education as a design science. In° B. Sriraman & L. D. English (Eds.), Theories of mathematics education: Seeking new frontiers (pp. 123-146). Advances in Mathematics Education, Series: Springer. Pdf (659 KB)