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CSS colloquium: Mikkel Willum Johansen

What mathematicians do - investigating the mathematical practice with empirical methods

2015.09.08 | Randi Mosegaard

Date Wed 14 Oct
Time 14:15 15:45
Location 1532-314

Reuben Hersh once claimed that mathematics has a frontstage and a backstage in the sense that there is huge difference between how mathematical results are produced and how they are presented to the public (Hersh, 1991). In this talk, I will present the main results of a study of the mathematical practice. The study generally confirms Hersh’s claim; there does seem to be a clear difference between the way results are presented in published papers and the way they are produced. I will describe the considerations mathematicians make when they chose problems and I will present how mathematicians attack and work with mathematical problems and the role cognitive tools and artifacts play in their work.

The results come from a qualitative study of working mathematicians, and I will end by discussing some of the challenges that lies in applying sociological methods to the philosophy of science.