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Engaging students in mathematics conversations: Discourse practices and the development of social and socialmathematical norms in three novice teachers' classrooms

Mary T Grassetti, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Research on learning to teach mathematics reveals that mathematics teaching is a complex process (Lerman, 2000) and classroom teaching and learning is a “multifaceted, extraordinarily complex phenomenon” (O’Connor, 1998, p. 43). Moreover, research reveals that the mathematics reform agenda has had an impact on what happens in the mathematics classroom, however, the impact has been superficial (Kazemi & Stipek, 2001) with teachers often retaining their pre-reform habits and attitudes in regards to mathematics teaching and learning (O’Connor, 1998). This study examined the reform discourse practices that three novice teachers, who had been enrolled in a reform based methods course during their preservice teacher education program, adopted, adapted, or ignored as they attempted to engage students in mathematical conversations. Data sources included interviews, field notes, artifacts, and transcripts of videotaped classroom lessons. The primary research questions guiding this study included: (1) What reform-oriented discourses practices do novice teachers, who participated in a reform-based mathematics methods course adopt? What practices do they adapt? What practices do they ignore as they engage students in mathematics conversations? and (2) What issues and challenges surface as novice teachers begin to enact reform-oriented discourse practices? Results indicated that despite holding beliefs that reflect the basic tenets of mathematics reform, theses novice teachers represent a continuum of practices ranging from traditional to reform. Evidence suggests that adopting the reform-oriented practice of eliciting different solutions was critical in the development of social norms that reflect mathematics reform. Eliciting different solutions served to focus classroom conversations on meaningful student generated explanations and justifications. Moreover, evidence suggests that enacting the practice of eliciting different solutions was instrumental in enacting other reform-orientated practices associated with the development of reform-oriented socialmathematical norms. Lastly, results indicate that the pressures of teaching in an underperforming school, as defined by state standardized high stakes tests, can impact a novice teacher’s ability and willingness to adopt mathematics reform practices.

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Elementary education|Teacher education|Educational technology

Recommended Citation

Grassetti, Mary T, "Engaging students in mathematics conversations: Discourse practices and the development of social and socialmathematical norms in three novice teachers' classrooms" (2010). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3397701.