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A Case Study of Two Teachers Attempting to Create Active Mathematics Discourse Communities with Latinos

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posted on 28.06.2013, 00:00 by Craig J. Willey
This is a qualitative study of two English-dominant mathematics teachers, who I refer to as "monolingual" because they speak only English and do not speak competently or extensively the language of their students. The study explores how these teachers plan, implement, and reflect upon lessons with respect to their bilingual, urban Latina/o students. Ethnographic methods – such as participant observation in classroom activities, formal and informal interviews, regular dialogue, and analysis of artifacts – were used to understand the meaning the teachers attribute to their teaching practices. Given Latina/o students’ unique strengths and needs, this study aims to garner a better sense of how these teachers develop mathematics learning communities – specifically, Mathematics discourse Communities (MdC’s) – that emphasize opportunities for students to talk mathematically and work together, in an effort to help shape meaningful mathematical experiences. This study produced three primary findings: 1) The concept of Mathematics discourse Communities is not one that the teachers easily take up, complicating efforts to establish inclusive mathematics learning environments for bilingual – especially emergent bilingual – students. 2) There is confusion as to what constitutes mathematics discourse and its role in developing mathematical understanding, and how to create discursive structures to support students’ development of mathematics discourse. The teachers view mathematics discourse as the overt emphasis of key, technical words commonly associated with mathematics, and incorporated mathematical writing in limited ways. 3) The teachers maintain distinct language ideologies and perceptions of Latina/o learners that tacitly influence their design and implementation of MdC’s. This leads to uncertainty about what is within or outside of their responsibilities as mathematics teachers of Latina/o students, including supporting students as they take on the additional task of learning English, and specifically, mathematical discourse. The findings suggest that teachers’ histories need to be explored and accounted for in any effort to support pedagogical shifts to better accommodate bilingual students. Additionally, we need to continue to develop the theoretical and analytical construct of MdC’s to allow us to account for micro-interactions between teacher and students in light of the sociocultural histories of the teachers, as well as the sociopolitical context within which they teach.



Licon Khisty, Lena


Curriculum and Instruction

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University of Illinois at Chicago

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Ayers, William Martin, Danny B. Razfar, Aria Gutierrez, Rochelle

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