Picture this. A preverbal infant straddles the center of a seesaw. She gently tilts her weight back and forth from one side to the other, sensing as each side tips downward and then back up again. This child cannot articulate her observations in simple words, let alone in scientific jargon. Can she learn anything from this experience? If so, what is she learning, and what role might such learning play in her future interactions in the world? Of course, this is a nonverbal bodily experience, and any learning that occurs must be bodily, physical learning. But does this nonverbal bodily experience have anything to do with the sort of learning that takes place in schools - learning verbal and abstract concepts? In this chapter, we argue that the body has everything to do with learning, even learning of abstract concepts. Take mathematics, for example. Mathematical practice is thought to be about producing and manipulating arbitrary symbolic inscriptions that bear abstract, universal truisms untainted by human corporeality. Mathematics is thought to epitomize our species’ collective historical achievement of transcending and, perhaps, escaping the mundane, material condition of having a body governed by haphazard terrestrial circumstance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences
EditorsR Keith Sawyer
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781139519526
ISBN (Print)9781107033252
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology

Cite this