The Codevelopment of Mathematical Concepts and the Practice of Defining

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  • 1 McGill University
  • 2 Vanderbilt University

We examined the codevelopment of mathematical concepts and the mathematical practice of defining within a sixth-grade class investigating space and geometry. Drawing upon existing literature, we present a framework for describing forms of participation in defining, what we term aspects of definitional practice. Analysis of classroom interactions during 16 episodes spanning earlier and later phases of instruction illustrate how student participation in aspects of definitional practice influenced their emerging conceptions of the geometry of shape and form and how emerging conceptions of shape and form provided opportunities to develop and elaborate aspects of definitional practice. Several forms of teacher discourse appeared to support students' participation and students' increasing agency over time. These included: (a) requesting that members of the class participate in various aspects of practice, (b) asking questions that serve to expand the mathematical system, (c) modeling participation in aspects of practice, (d) proposing examples that create contest (i.e., monsters), and (e) explicitly stating expectations of and purposes for participating in the practice.

Contributor Notes

Marta Kobiela, Department of Integrated Studies in Education, Faculty of Education, McGill University, 3700 Rue McTavish, Montréal, Quebec, Canada, H3A 1Y2;

Richard Lehrer, Department of Teaching and Learning, Vanderbilt University, 0230 GPC, 230 Appleton Place, Nashville, TN, USA, 37203-5721;

(Corresponding author is Kobiela author is Lehrer
Journal for Research in Mathematics Education


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