In a discussion with a physics lecturer he mentioned that one major area where students fail is understanding assumptions - for example, if we are interested in two objects hitting each other and then bouncing off, we can probably ignore gravity, since the interesting even happens very fast. That is, we may assume gravity to be zero for the calculation.

In mathematics also there are plenty of assumptions. They tend to be more explicit then in physics. Students still have problems with them - confusing what should be proven with what may be assumed, for example.

Has this phenomenon (of students failing in using assumptions) been studied, and if yes, what are the major discoveries, or where should I start reading to find out more about this?

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    $\begingroup$ I have no references, but surely this is dependent on whether knowledge of those assumptions is practiced/exercised in one's courses. If every application is arranged in advance to meet the assumptions of the most recent theorems, then they will never be exercised and the lesson is that they are ignorable boilerplate. $\endgroup$ Mar 10 '17 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ Starting from Toulmin method Toulmin en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toulmin_method, you can link it in the papers in math ed and some other field that have used it. $\endgroup$ Mar 10 '17 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ Although not focusing on assumptions Alcock, Inglis and coworkers have done work in the field of reading math proofs. One of their papers here $\endgroup$ May 26 '17 at 10:32
  • $\begingroup$ Please answer in answers, rather than comments. $\endgroup$
    – Tommi
    May 26 '17 at 14:25

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