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Abstract
Analysis of online mathematics forums can help reveal how explanation is used by mathematicians; we contend that this use of explanation may help to provide an informal conceptualization of simplicity. We extracted six conjectures from recent philosophical work on the occurrence and characteristics of explanation in mathematics. We then tested these conjectures against a corpus derived from online mathematical discussions. To this end, we employed two techniques, one based on indicator terms, the other on a random sample of comments lacking such indicators. Our findings suggest that explanation is widespread in mathematical practice and that it occurs not only in proofs but also in other mathematical contexts. Our work also provides further evidence for the utility of empirical methods in addressing philosophical problems.
Original language  English 

Article number  20180159 
Journal  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 
Volume  377 
Issue number  2140 
Early online date  21 Jan 2019 
DOIs  
Publication status  Published  11 Mar 2019 
Keywords
 Crowdsourced mathematics
 Experimental philosophy
 Explanation
 Hilbert problems
 Mathematical practice
ASJC Scopus subject areas
 Mathematics(all)
 Engineering(all)
 Physics and Astronomy(all)
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 1 Finished

ExampleDriven MachineHuman Collaboration in Mathematics
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
1/06/17 → 31/05/19
Project: Research