The moment-to-moment dynamics of student discourse plays a large role in students' enacted mathematics identities. Discourse analysis was used to describe meaningful discursive patterns in the interactions of 2 students in a 7th-grade, technology-based, curricular unit (SimCalc MathWorlds®) and to show how mathematics identities are enacted at the microlevel. Frameworks were theoretically and empirically connected to identity to characterize the participants' relative positioning and the structural patterns in their discourse (e.g., who talks, who initiates sequences, whose ideas are taken up and publicly recognized). Data indicated that students' peer-to-peer discourse patterns explained the enactment of differing mathematics identities within the same local context. Thus, the ways people talk and interact are powerful influences on who they are, and can become, with respect to mathematics.
Beth A. Herbel-Eisenmann and Samuel Otten
This article offers a particular analytic method from systemic functional linguistics, thematic analysis, which reveals the mathematical meaning potentials construed in discourse. Addressing concerns that discourse analysis is too often content-free, thematic analysis provides a way to represent semantic structures of mathematical content, allows for content comparisons to be drawn between classroom episodes, and identifies points of possible student misinterpretation. Analyses of 2 middle school classroom excerpts focusing on area—1 that derives triangle area formulas from the rectangle area formula and another that connects parallelogram and rectangular area— are used to delineate the method. Descriptions of similarities and differences in the classroom discourse highlight how, in each classroom, mathematical terms such as base and height were used in semantically related but distinct ways. These findings raise the question of whether students were aware of and able to navigate such semantic shifts.
Susan B. Empson
This article presents an analysis of two low-performing students' experiences in a firstgrade classroom oriented toward teaching mathematics for understanding. Combining constructs from interactional sociolinguistics and developmental task analysis, I investigate the nature of these students' participation in classroom discourse about fractions. Pre- and post-instruction interviews documenting learning and analysis of classroom interactions suggest mechanisms of that learning. I propose that three main factors account for these two students' success: use of tasks that elicited the students' prior understanding, creation of a variety of participant frameworks (Goffman, 1981) in which the students were treated as mathematically competent, and frequency of opportunities for identity-enhancing interactions.
Ann Anderson, Jim Anderson and Jon Shapiro
The purpose of the study reported in this article was to explore the mathematical discourse in which four dyads engaged while sharing the storybook One Snowy Night (Butterworth, 1989) while at home or in other locations (e.g., day care centers). Each dyad consisted of a mother and her four-year-old child. Various discourse patterns were evident, and while there were commonalities across dyads, each pair shared the book in unique ways. In two of the dyads, the mother initiated the mathematical discourse; in the other two, the child did. Size, subitizing, and counting were the most common mathematical concepts that emerged. One dyad attended to a single concept of size, and the other dyads attended to more than one mathematical idea. Some parents scaffolded particular problem-solving strategies; others provided more generic support. Based on our findings, we discuss insights and issues and make suggestions for further research.
There has been increased engagement in studying discourse in the field of mathematics education. But what exactly is a discourse, and how do researchers go about analyzing discourses? This study examines 108 articles from 6 international journals in mathematics education by asking questions such as these: In which traditions and in relation to which kinds of epistemological assumptions are the articles situated? How is the concept of discourse used and defined? How are mathematical aspects of the discourse accentuated? The results of this study show that a variety of conceptualizations are used for analyzing discourses but also that many articles would benefit from strengthening those conceptualizations by explicitly defining the concept of discourse, situating the article in relation to epistemological assumptions, and relating the work to other discourse studies in mathematics education.
Indigo Esmonde and Jennifer M. Langer-Osuna
In this article, mathematics classrooms are conceptualized as heterogeneous spaces in which multiple figured worlds come into contact. The study explores how a group of high school students drew upon several figured worlds as they navigated mathematical discussions. Results highlight 3 major points. First, the students drew on 2 primary figured worlds: a mathematics learning figured world and a figured world of friendship and romance. Both of these figured worlds were racialized and gendered, and were actively constructed and contested by the students. Second, these figured worlds offered resources for 1 African American student, Dawn, to position herself powerfully within classroom hierarchies. Third, these acts of positioning allowed Dawn to engage in mathematical practices such as conjecturing, clarifying ideas, and providing evidence.
Cathy Jacobson and Richard Lehrer
In 4 Grade 2 classrooms, children learned about transformational geometry and symmetry by designing quilts. All 4 teachers participated in professional development focused on understanding children's thinking in arithmetic. Therefore, the teachers elicited student talk as a window for understanding student thinking and adjusting instruction in mathematics to promote the development of understanding and used the same tasks and materials. Two of the 4 teachers participated in additional workshops on students' thinking about space and geometry, and they elicited more sustained and elaborate patterns of classroom conversations about transformational geometry. These differences were mirrored by students' achievement differences that were sustained over time. We attribute these differences in classroom discourse and student achievement to differences in teachers' knowledge about typical milestones and trajectories of children's reasoning about space and geometry.
This study deals with students' construction of mathematical objects. The basic claim is that the need for communication—any attempt to evoke certain actions by others—is the primary driving force behind all human cognitive processes. Effectiveness of verbal communication is seen as a function of the quality of its focus. Material objects may serve as a basis for creation of such a focus, but in some discourses, focus-engendering objects must be created. Such discursive construction is observed in analysis of one classroom episode. Special attention is given to metaphor, which is the point of departure for the construction process, and to the subsequent dialectical process of closing the gap between the metaphor-induced expectations and the need for a well-defined construction procedure to ensure effective communication.
Leone Burton and Candia Morgan
In this article we report on part of a study of the epistemological perspectives of practicing research mathematicians. We explore the identities that mathematicians present to the world in their writing and the ways in which they represent the nature of mathematical activity. Analysis of 53 published research papers reveals substantial variations in these aspects of mathematicians' writing. The interpretation of these variations is supported by extracts from interviews with the mathematicians. We discuss the implications for students and for novice researchers beginning to write about their mathematical activity.
This article, the focus of which is on girls in mathematics, engages poststructural debates over knowledge and power to explore how female subjectivity is lived within the classroom, and the first section looks at some recent feminist reconstructionists' proposals developed from the idea of “different experience.” The second section is set within the context of the poststructuralists' undermining of the “light” of progressive development, central to the Enlightenment project. Foucauldian ideas are introduced for a theoretical discussion about the ways in which the girl becomes gendered through available discourses and practices. Building on this discussion, the third section provides an analysis of some moments of classroom life and offers a different story about girls in school mathematics.