What Makes Mathematics Discussion Meaningful? An Examination of Elementary Teacher Practices While Orchestrating Mathematics Discussion

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0003-2212-7857
McLemore, Katherine, Curriculum and Instruction - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Brighton, Catherine

Mathematics reform efforts for the last several decades prioritize teachers facilitating meaningful mathematics discussion in a way that empowers students as thinkers and doers of mathematics (CCSSI, 2021; NCTM, 1991, 2014). While numerous studies have described the benefits of mathematics discussions (Anderson & Boaler, 2008; Kosko et al., 2012; Webb et al., 2021) and the attributes of productive discussions (Boerst et al., 2011; Murata et al., 2017; Webb et al., 2014), teachers still struggle to implement practices that position students as the leaders of discussion. Evidence suggests that specific teacher moves impact the degree to which students share their mathematical thinking and engage with the thinking of others during meaningful mathematics discussion (Chapin et al., 2009; Ellis et al., 2018; Ing et al., 2015; Franke et al., 2009). Teachers at Barron Academy1, an independent K-12 school in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, also struggle to facilitate mathematics discussion so that students are leaders of mathematics and engage with their peers’ thinking. Through a descriptive case study, I examined three elementary mathematics teachers’ instructional practices that support and/or limit meaningful mathematics discussion. To better understand this local problem of practice, I observed mathematics instruction, interviewed teachers, and reviewed the curriculum employed by the school. Findings suggest that teachers 1) recognized meaningful mathematics discussion as student-led but did not facilitate discussion in this way and 2) were heavily reliant on the curriculum to plan for and orchestrate mathematics discussion. These findings informed related recommendations that will actionably support the improvement of mathematics discussion in the school.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
elementary education, mathematics instruction, discussion, qualitative methods
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