Faculty profile

Mitchell Nathan

Mitchell Nathan

Dept. of Educational Psychology
1069 Educational Sciences
(608) 262-0831

Lab: 685A Educational Sciences
(608) 263-0563


Research Keywords

cognition, representation, mathematics learning and teaching, algebra learning, science learning


  • Department of Educational Psychology - Learning Sciences, Associate Professor
  • Department of Curriculum & Instruction, affiliate
  • Department of Psychology, affiliate

Current Projects

  • Principle investigator for the STAAR project, Collaborative Research: Understanding and Cultivating the Transition from Arithmetic to Algebraic Reasoning (Funded by the IERI program from NSF, US Dept of Ed and NICHD)
  • Co-PI for "The role of visual scaffolding in students' mathematics learning: Evidence from early algebra," sponsored by the U. S. Dept. of Education-Institute of Educational Sciences (IES)

Research Collaborators

  • Martha Alibali, Psychology
  • Eric Knuth, Curriculum & Instruction
  • Sandy Courter, Engineering
  • Naomi Chessler, Engineering

Representative Classes

  • Ed Psych 711: Doctoral Research Program Proseminar
  • Ed Psych 711: Epistemologies of Mathematics and Science—Embodied Cognition

Research Statement

I currently study how students use representations individually and collectively to reason quantitatively, and how their intuitions (such as invented strategies) about quantitative relations can serve as the basis for learning formal algebraic strategies. I also study teachers' beliefs about the development of students' algebraic reasoning, how expert blind spot among educators with high levels of mathematics training may influence teachers' views of development, and how technology that supports video case analysis and professional discourse and reflection can facilitate teacher change and professional development. My work is largely rooted in cognitive, embodied and social aspects of learning and teaching behavior in and out of classrooms. I employ quantitative and qualitative research methods, such as experimental design, survey design, think aloud reports, and verbal and gestural analyses of discourse and design experiments. My work is directed at both basic research and applications to curriculum development, teacher education and staff development.

Selected Publications

  • Nathan, M.J., Eilam, B. & Kim, S. (accepted pending revisions). To disagree, we must also agree: How intersubjectivity structures and perpetuates discourse in a mathematics classroom. Journal of the Learning Sciences.
  • Alibali, M.W. & Nathan, M.J. (in press). Teachers' gestures as a means of scaffolding students' understanding: Evidence from an early algebra lesson. To appear in Goldman, R., Pea, R., Barron, B.J., and Derry, S. (Eds.) Video Research in the Learning Sciences.
  • Koedinger, K.R. & Nathan, M.J. (2004). The real story behind story problems: Effects of representations on quantitative reasoning. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 13(2), 129-164.
  • Nathan, M.J. & Petrosino, A.J. (2003). Expert blind spot among preservice teachers. American Educational Research Journal, 40(4), 905-928.
  • Nathan, M.J. & Knuth, E. (2003). A study of whole classroom mathematical discourse and teacher change. Cognition and Instruction, 21(2), 175-207.
  • Nathan, M.J. & Eisenberg, M. (August, 2003). Computers as physical printers: a new view of educational technology. In L. Mason, S. Andreuzza, B. Arfè and Laura Del Favero (Eds.) European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) 10th Biennial Meeting (pp. 492-493) August 26-30, 2003, Padova, Italy: Cooperativa Libraria Editrice Università di Padova (CLEUP).
  • Nathan, M.J., & Koedinger, K.R. (2000). An investigation of teachers’ beliefs of students’ algebra development. Cognition and Instruction, 18(2), 209-237.