Mitchell Nathan

Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor, Learning Sciences Area

964A Educational Sciences

1025 West Johnson Street

Madison, WI 53706-1706

Nathan, Mitchell

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Mitchell J. Nathan, BSEE, Ph.D., studies how we think, teach, and learn, with particular emphasis on the role that language and embodied processes plays in mathematics and engineering learning, teaching, educational assessment, and design. Dr. Nathan has authored over 200 peer-reviewed publications, and has secured research funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U. S. Dept. of Education-Institute of Educational Sciences (IES), and the James S. McDonnell Foundation (JSMF). Dr. Nathan is an elected Fellow of the International Society of the Learning Sciences, and a founding officer (2002). He founded the American Education Research Association (AERA) Division C section on Engineering and Computer Science Education (2013), co-Chaired the International Conference on Computer-supported Collaborative Learning, CSCL10 (2013), and co-founded EMIC (2016), an international group of scholars and educators focused on embodied education. He has been Visiting Professor (2011-2016) for the Latin American School for Education, Cognitive and Neural Sciences, and served on multiple committees for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. He is an inductee of the University of Wisconsin’s Teaching Academy, which promotes excellence in teaching in higher education, and served on its executive board. Nathan has, since 2017, been the inaugural Chair of the Teachers as Learners (TaL) grant program, funded by JSMF.


  • PhD Cognitive Psychology, University of Colorado at Boulder, 1991
  • MA Psychology, University of Colorado at Boulder, 1988
  • BA History, Carnegie Mellon University, 1984
  • BS Electrical and Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, 1984
  • BS Mathematics, Carnegie Mellon University, 1984

Select Publications

  • Nathan, M. J., (2021). Foundations of embodied learning: A paradigm for education Routledge ISBN-13: 9780367349769 (paperback).
  • Abrahamson, D., Nathan, M. J., Williams-Pierce, C., Walkington, C., Ottmar, E. R., Soto, H., & Alibali, M. W. (2020). The future of embodied design for mathematics teaching and learning. Frontiers in Education, 5(147) Online Publication/Abstract.
  • Nathan, M. J., & Walkington, C. (2017). Grounded and embodied mathematical cognition: promoting mathematical insight and proof using action and language. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications.
  • Committee on Integrated STEM Education. National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council, (2014). STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Margaret Honey, Greg Pearson, and Heidi Schweingruber (Ed.). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press: Online Publication/Abstract.
  • Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4-58. Online Publication/Abstract.
  • Alibali, M. W., & Nathan, M. J. (2012). Embodiment in mathematics teaching and learning: Evidence from learners' and teachers' gestures. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 21(2), 247-286.
  • Tran, N., & Nathan, M. J. (2010). An investigation of the relationship between pre-college engineering studies and student achievement in science and mathematics. Journal of Engineering Education, 99(2), 143-157. Online Publication/Abstract.
  • Nathan, M. J., & Petrosino, A. J. (2003). Expert blind spot among preservice teachers. American Educational Research Journal, 40(4), 905-928. Online Publication/Abstract.
  • Nathan, M. J., & Koedinger, K. R. (2000). Teachers' and researchers' beliefs about the development of algebraic reasoning. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 31, 168-190. Online Publication/Abstract.
  • Nathan, M. J., Kintsch, W., & Young, E. (1992). A theory of algebra word problem comprehension and its implications for the design of computer learning environments. Cognition and Instruction, 9(4), 329-389. Online Publication/Abstract.

Select Presentations

  • Nathan, M. J. (2021, January). Scale-down methodology: Scaling-up educational innovation. Talk to Santa Fe Institute: Education, Equity & Technology, Santa Fe, NM.
  • Nathan, M. J. (2016, October). The future of the Learning Sciences. Keynote/Plenary Address presented at the Inaugural Learning Sciences Graduate Student (LSGS) Conference, Chicago, IL.
  • Nathan, M. J., McClelland, J. L., Spelke, E. S., Kellman, P. J., & McCandliss, B. D. (2015, February). Human Mathematical Abilities - From Intuition to the Classroom and Back. AAAS Presidential Invited Session, San Jose, CA.
  • Nathan, M. J. (2014, October). Leading your students to make connections in integrative STEM. Workshop Workshop on “Engineering Ingenuity.”, Virginia Military Institute.
  • Nathan, M. J. (2013, April). Embodied Cognition: What It Means to Know and Do Mathematics. Keynote/Plenary Address presented at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Annual Meeting, Denver, CO.
  • Nathan, M. J. (2013, January). STEM Education in the Classroom: Rising to the Challenges. Keynote/Plenary Address presented at the STEM Education Initiative, Ministry of Education, Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Nathan, M. J. (2011, March). The Transition from Arithmetic to Algebraic Reasoning. presented at the The Latin American School for Education, Cognitive and Neural Sciences, San Pedro De Atacama, Chile.
  • Nathan, M. J. (2007, January). Expert blind spot in teacher cognition. presented at the Presentation to the University of Haifa Mathematics Education Program, Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel.
  • Nathan, M. J. (2005, December - 2005, December). Symbols and grounding in instructional settings. presented at the Presentation to "Symbols, Embodiment, and Meaning: A Workshop and Debate, University of La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain.

Select Awards and Honors

  • Facilitators’ Choice Award for the 2020 STEM For All Video Showcase, “The Hidden Village: Mathematical Reasoning Through Movement.”, 2020
  • Fellow, International Society of the Learning Sciences, 2018
  • Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2018
  • Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowship Award, University of Wisconsin, (2015–2016)
  • Inductee, Teaching Academy, University of Wisconsin, 2014
  • Visiting Lecturer, Latin American School for Education, Cognitive, and Neural Sciences, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. Centro de Investigación Avanzada en Educación – Universidad de Chile/Center for Advanced Research in Education University of Chile, 2011
  • Outstanding Reviewer, Review of Educational Research, American Educational Research Association (AERA), 2007