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Stephen J. Pape

Many children read mathematics word problems and directly translate them to arithmetic operations. More sophisticated problem solvers transform word problems into object-based or mental models. Subsequent solutions are often qualitatively different because these models differentially support cognitive processing. Based on a conception of problem solving that integrates mathematical problem-solving and reading comprehension theories and using constant comparative methodology (Strauss & Corbin, 1994), 98 sixth- and seventh-grade students' problem-solving behaviors were described and classified into five categories. Nearly 90% of problem solvers used one behavior on a majority of problems. Use of context such as units and relationships, recording information given in the problem, and provision of explanations and justifications were associated with higher reading and mathematics achievement tests, greater success rates, fewer errors, and the ability to preserve the structure of problems during recall. These results were supported by item-level analyses.

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Julia Aguirre, Beth Herbel-Eisenmann, Sylvia Celedón-Pattichis, Marta Civil, Trena Wilkerson, Michelle Stephan, Stephen Pape and Douglas H. Clements

In 2005, the NCTM Research Committee devoted its commentary to exploring how mathematics education research might contribute to a better understanding of equity in school mathematics education (Gutstein et al., 2005). In that commentary, the concept of equity included both conditions and outcomes of learning. Although multiple definitions of equity exist, the authors of that commentary expressed it this way: “The main issue for us is how mathematics education research can contribute to understanding the causes and effects of inequity, as well as the strategies that effectively reduce undesirable inequities of experience and achievement in mathematics education” (p. 94). That research commentary brought to the foreground important questions one might ask about equity in school mathematics and some of the complexities associated with doing that work. It also addressed how mathematics education researchers (MERs) could bring a “critical equity lens” (p. 95, hereafter referred to as an “equity lens”) to the research they do. Fast forward 10 years to now: Where is the mathematics education researcher (MER) community in terms of including an equity lens in mathematics education research? Gutiérrez (2010/2013) argued that a sociopolitical turn in mathematics education enables us to ask and answer harder, more complex questions that include issues of identity, agency, power, and sociocultural and political contexts of mathematics, learning, and teaching. A sociopolitical approach allows us to see the historical legacy of mathematics as a tool of oppression as well as a product of our humanity.

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Beth Herbel-Eisenmann, Nathalie Sinclair, Kathryn B. Chval, Douglas H. Clements, Marta Civil, Stephen J. Pape, Michelle Stephan, Jeffrey J. Wanko and Trena L. Wilkerson

In this commentary, we identify key influences on mathematics education that are largely outside the domain of the academic world in which most mathematics education researchers live. The groups that we identify–including the media, companies and foundations, and other academic domains–affect the public's perception of mathematics and mathematics education. Identifying this set of influences in particular is important because these groups often shape policymakers' viewpoints and decisions, but there is not always agreement between mathematics education researchers and these groups about the ways in which mathematics and mathematics education are framed. Whenever a conflict is brought to the foreground, it can be difficult to raise issues without appearing defensive or sounding querulous. It is helpful, then, to bring to bear a theory that can help us interpret this reality (Mewborn, 2005); theories can provide a way to encode, read, and examine a problem as well as offer insights into the design of new practices (Silver & Herbst, 2007). In this case, we use positioning theory to examine potential conflicts between mathematics education researchers and other groups because it offers interesting interpretive insights into the phenomenon and because it can lead to potential strategies for working toward different positionings for mathematics education researchers. We begin by explaining relevant ideas from positioning theory, including storylines, positions, and communication actions. We then use these ideas to highlight current storylines underlying communication by the abovementioned groups about mathematics and mathematics education and trace some of their historical and contextual roots. We argue that mathematics education researchers can intervene to shift these storylines and positionings and to have greater impact on policy, practice, and public perception in the future. Finally, we end by offering specific suggestions for beginning this work.

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Sylvia Celedón-Pattichis, Lunney Lisa Borden, Stephen J. Pape, Douglas H. Clements, Susan A. Peters, Joshua R. Males, Olive Chapman and Jacqueline Leonard

In July 2017, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) released a new mission statement that shifts the organization's primary focus to supporting and advocating for the highest quality mathematics teaching and learning for all students. A key strategy for achieving this goal is to advance “a culture of equity where each and every person has access to high quality teaching and is empowered as a learner and doer of mathematics” (NCTM, 2017, “Strategic Framework,” para. 2). Increasing equity and ensuring the highest quality mathematics teaching and learning for all students requires systemic change (National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics [NCSM] & TODOS: Mathematics for ALL, 2016). As educators are called to enact NCTM's new mission, we acknowledge that such change is complex. We also acknowledge that our own experiences conducting equity work that is grounded in an asset-based approach are at different stages of development, ranging from beginning levels to lived experiences as diverse mathematics learners and mathematics education researchers. We see this change in mission as a call to both act politically (Aguirre et al., 2017) and to change story lines (i.e., “broad, culturally shared narrative[s]”; Herbel-Eisenmann et al., 2016, p. 104) that dominate the public perception of mathematics learning and teaching. We acknowledge that systemic barriers are part of a larger educational issue, but for the purposes of this commentary, we focus on mathematics.