Knowing, insight learning, and the integrity of kinetic movement

Alfredo BAUTISTA ARELLANO, Wolff-Michael ROTH, Jennifer S. THOM

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Psychologists, philosophers, and educators have traditionally interpreted the phenomenon of insight learning as the result of the sudden comprehension of abstract/conceptual ideas. The present article shows that such phenomenon may also follow and emerge from the kinetic movements of the human body; that is, we conceptualize insight learning as a post-kinetic phenomenon. Further, it is suggested that kinetic movement constitutes the ground of all human knowing. To illustrate this innovative conceptualization of insight learning, we present the analysis of an exemplary classroom episode taken from a two-year longitudinal video-based ethnographic project. Our project is concerned with elementary students' mathematical knowing and learning. In the episode, which was selected among other structurally similar examples, three children are sorting geometrical objects. The evidence shown is interpreted as support for the theory of mathematics in the flesh, a radical approach to embodied cognition. In contrast to other embodiment/ enactivist theories in the field of mathematics education, we suggest that the kinetic movement of the human body constitutes a necessary condition for the emergence of abstract mathematical knowledge, and more specifically for the emergence of geometrical insight. Copyright © 2012 Springer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-388
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


Bautista, A., Roth, W.-M., & Thom, J. S. (2011). Knowing, insight learning, and the integrity of kinetic movement. Interchange, 42(4), 363-388. doi: 10.1007/s10780-012-9164-9


  • Knowing
  • Insight learning
  • Kinetic movement
  • Flesh
  • Phenomenology
  • Mathematics education
  • Elementary students
  • Embodiment
  • Enactivism
  • Ethnography


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