Progmatics Project


Our research study (2017-2022) will examine how mathematics undergraduates learn to use computer programming for mathematical investigation, simulation, and real-world modeling (or in short ‘progmatics’). The context for our naturalistic case study is a sequence of three mathematics courses offered over three years at Brock University (since 2001) in which students learn to use ‘progmatics’ through weekly labs and 14 ‘progmatics’ project assignments.

Building on our recent related research, our research questions are:

  • How do post-secondary mathematics students come to adopt ‘progmatics’ as an instrument for their own use?
  • Is the adoption sustained over time; and if so, how?
  • And how do instructors create a learning environment to support students’ adoption of ‘progmatics’?

The theoretical framework grounding our work brings together concepts from: i) the instrumental approach (Guin & Trouche, 1999) to inform our understanding of technology integration in mathematics teaching and learning; ii) the work of Lave and Wenger (1991) on communities of practice (i.e., on ‘legitimate peripheral participation’) to inform our view of learning mathematics; and iii) the work of Weintrop et al. (2016) on computational thinking in mathematics education as well as the constructionism paradigm (Papert and Harel, 1991) to inform our understanding of ‘programming (for) mathematics’ (see Buteau, Muller, Mgombelo, & Sacristan, 2018)

We will use a mixed-method, iterative and case study design to document and analyze undergraduates’ learning of ‘progmatics’, their use of ‘progmatics’ beyond course requirements, and the ways teachers support undergraduates’ ‘progmatics’ learning. Data collected from students will include lab session reflections, ‘progmatics’ projects together with reflective journals, interviews, and questionnaires. Data from instructors will consist of interviews, lab session observations, and course materials.

Our study will contribute to knowledge of how post-secondary students learn to use ‘progmatics’—a contemporary way of doing and applying mathematics needed in STEM—and to the advancement of post-secondary mathematics/STEM education knowledge. It also will provide mathematics departments with a flexible teaching model to implement ‘progmatics’ in post-secondary programs.

See our publications for past related research (including case studies) as well as results of our ongoing research.


This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.