Orchestrating mathematical discussions in the middle school mathematics classroom
Ovrick, Robyn Lynn Bryant
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This qualitative research study was designed to answer the question ÒHow do middle school mathematics teachers orchestrate a classroom environment that fosters mathematical discourse among students from low socio-economic backgrounds and with limited experiences?Ó I chose two participants from different school systems with a student body largely from low socio-economic status because I wanted to learn how one helps such a group of students engage in mathematical discourse. Gayle taught in a Title I school where 88% of the students were considered economically disadvantaged. Jessica taught in a school where 43% of the students were economically disadvantaged. A triangulation of methods was used to gather data for my research, including interviews, observations, and archival data. I observed Gayle and Jessica every day of the first week of school, and then four and three more times, respectively, over the next 12 weeks. Each lesson was audio-taped and transcribed. Transcriptions were coded according to themes from the literature Ð classroom management, math talk moves (Chapin, et. al., 2003), and Hufferd-Ackles et al. levels of questions (2004), and relationships. All questions were also coded in light of the revised BloomÕs Taxonomy of educational objectives (Krathwohl, 2002). From the data, I formulated three conclusions regarding the orchestration of mathematical discussions in the middle school classroom. There is no one way to initiate mathematical dialogue, but the implementation of math talk moves (Chapin, et. al., 2003) transcends the personalities of the teachers, the environment of the schools, or the level of student poverty. The second conclusion regards the connection between small and large group discussions. Students are more likely to talk about the mathematics in the small group without a lot of prompting when they know that they must present to the whole class about their findings. The final conclusion is that the teacherÕs relationship with high poverty students is essential. When the teacher knows her students, she is more able to vary her levels of questioning appropriately, whether to sustain student engagement or to push the student to the next level.