Date of Award

Fall 12-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master's of Science in Teaching (MST)


Science and Mathematics Education


Justin Dimmel

Second Committee Member

Elizabeth Hufnagel

Third Committee Member

Natasha Speer

Additional Committee Members

Eric Pandiscio


Mithala and Balacheff (2019) describe three difficulties with two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional geometrical objects: “it is no longer possible to confuse the representation with the object itself,” visually observed relationships can be misleading, and analysis of the representation requires the use of lower-dimensional theoretical properties. Despite these difficulties, students are routinely expected to learn about three-dimensional figures through interacting with two-dimensional inscriptions. Three-dimensional alternatives include diagrams realized through various spatial inscriptions (e.g., Dimmel & Bock, 2019; Gecu-Parmaksiz & Delialioglu, 2019; Lai, McMahan, Kitagawa & Connolly, 2016; Ng and Sinclair, 2018). Such diagrams are three-dimensional in the sense that they occupy real (e.g., 3D pen drawings) or rendered (e.g., Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality environments) spaces as opposed to being inscribed or displayed on surfaces. Digital spatial diagrams can be grasped and transformed by gestures (e.g., stretching, pinching, spinning), even though they can’t be physically touched (Dimmel & Bock, 2019). Spatial diagrams make it possible to use natural movements of one’s head or body to explore figures from new perspectives (e.g., one can step inside a diagram), as they natively share the three-dimensional space. In this study I ask: How do learners use perspective to make arguments while exploring spatial diagrams? In particular, how do participants use perspectives outside and within geometric figures to make arguments while exploring spatial diagrams?

To investigate this question, I designed a large-scale spatial diagram of a pyramid whose apex and base were confined to parallel planes. The diagram was rendered in an apparently unbounded spatial canvas that was accessible via a head-mounted display. The pyramid was roughly 1 meter in height and the parallel planes appeared to extend indefinitely when viewed from within the immersive environment. I created this diagram as a mathematical context for exploring shearing, a “continuous and temporal” measure-preserving transformation of plane and solid figures (Ng & Sinclair, 2015, p.85).

I report on pairs of pre-service elementary teachers’ arguments about shearing of pyramids, using Pedemonte and Balacheff’s (2016) ck¢-enriched Toulmin model of argument. Shearing is a mathematical context that is likely novel to pre-service elementary teachers and provides an opportunity to connect transformations of plane and solid figures. Participants used perspectives outside and within the diagram to make arguments about the shearing of pyramids that would not be practicable with rigid three-dimensional models or dynamic two-dimensional representations. The results of this study suggest that the dimensionality of the spatial diagrams supported participants’ arguments about three-dimensional figures without mediation through projection or lower-dimensional components. The findings of this study offer a case that challenges the constraints of two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional figures, while maintaining theoretical constraints in a spatiographically accurate representation.