Manchester Metropolitan University's Research Repository

Ceci n'est pas un "circle"

Bradford, Krista and Brown, Tony (2005) Ceci n'est pas un "circle". For the learning of mathematics, 25 (1). pp. 16-19. ISSN 0228-0671

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There is a famous painting by Rene Magritte. It depicts a smoker’s pipe with the caption “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (this is not a pipe). The joke, still appreciated at the beginning of the twentieth century, was that it was not a pipe; it was a painting of a pipe. The painting has fuelled many discussions about the attachment of signifiers to signifieds: how exactly do symbols and words represent an object? As soon as we enter the domain of language we inevitably move to some sort of ideological frame that, in turn, brings with it a host of filters that condition our understanding of the material we are examining. This paper is concerned with the perception of mathematical concepts and seeks to explore some of the linguistic filters and socio-cultural factors which influence human understanding of such concepts.

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