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The role of explanation in mathematical research

Presented by: 
Alison Pease University of Dundee
Date: 
Friday 14th July 2017 - 09:00 to 10:00
Venue: 
INI Seminar Room 1
Abstract: 
Co-authors: Andrew Aberdein (Florida Institute of Technology), Ursula Martin (University of Oxford)

Mathematical practice is an emerging interdisciplinary field which draws on philosophy and social science to understand how mathematics is produced. Online mathematical activity provides a novel and rich source of data for empirical investigation of mathematical practice - for example the community question answering system MathOverflow contains nearly 70,000 mathematical conversations, and polymath collaborations provide transcripts of the process of discovering proofs. Our preliminary investigations have demonstrated the importance of "soft" aspects such as analogy and creativity, alongside deduction and proof, in the production of mathematics, and have given us new ways to think about the roles of people and machines in creating new mathematical knowledge. We discuss our investigations into these resources, focusing on ways in which explanation and argumentation are used by mathematicians in both proofs and other mathematical contexts.
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University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons