Early Undergraduates’ Emerging Conceptions of Proof and Conviction

Alison G Lynch, Ryan Pugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Before enrolling in an introduction-to-proof course, undergraduates often hold conceptions of mathematical proof that do not align with those accepted by the mathematics community. These conceptions are informed, in part, by past experiences with proof in mathematics and science courses. In this study, we sought to investigate the influence of these past experiences on students’ conceptions of proof. We conducted interviews with nine undergraduates in their first or second year in which we asked them to solve number theory tasks and determine the validity of provided number theory statements. In this paper, we report on the various conceptions of proof these students conveyed and the influence of past experiences on these conceptions.


  • Proof
  • Conceptions
  • Student Thinking


  • Education
  • Mathematics

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