Theorising the place of emotion-cognition in research on mathematical identities: the case of early years mathematics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we offer a theoretical account of the emotion-cognition dialectic (i.e. the unit of feeling and cognition in thought) in identity formation (or identification), focusing on early childhood and mathematics. We consider how contradictory (emotional-cognitive) experiences which arise in different forms of mathematical activity (a mathematical play activity versus formal classroom mathematics) produce and are produced by contradictory acts of mathematical identification. We illustrate this perspective using the case of Daniel (aged 6 years) who expressed the emotion of ‘astonishment’ at seeing himself on video engaged in a play activity. We highlight how this experience of emotion-cognition enables Daniel to articulate a juxtaposition between play which is ‘fun’ and his classroom mathematics which makes him ‘tired’, which we associate with contrasting mathematical identifications. This recognises that social/cultural symbolic forms of emotion-cognition and identification are present in dialogue with others/adults even at this young age. We therefore, call for a research agenda that explores how such identifications might become sedimented into mathematical identities as the child develops.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-389
Number of pages11
JournalZDM - International Journal on Mathematics Education
Early online date18 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2019

Related information


View all