Mathematics as Meaning-Making Activity: Describing Preservice Teachers’ Discourse during Meaning Making
Pitvorec, Kathleen A.
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This is a qualitative study exploring the characteristics of preservice teachers’ discourse while they engage in meaning making in the context of mathematical activity. This study employs an interpretive case study approach and includes such ethnographic tools as videotape, audiotape, and participant-observation. The data analysis incorporates processes derived from grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) and draws on research related to various approaches to discourse analysis in the field of mathematics education (e.g., Cobb & Bauersfeld, 1995; Cobb, Boufi, McClain, & Whitenack, 1997; Hufferd-Ackles, Fuson, & Sherin, 2004; Sfard, 2001a, 2007). The need for this study is based on the fact that mathematics reformers have been calling for learning mathematics with understanding, which requires individuals to negotiate the meaning of the mathematics. Although research on elementary school students’ meaning making exists, there is little research on preservice teachers’ meaning making. Results from this study indicate that preservice teachers engage in meaning making using conceptual talk—talk relying on conceptual coherence that connects mathematical ideas to explanations, explorations, and strategies. Throughout this study, observable meaning making never exists in the absence of gestures, including deictic gestures (pointing) and iconic gestures (related to the semantic concept they support). Preservice teachers build on each other’s ideas when they pick up language from classmates or when working together to come to consensus on language use for some presentation or written record of their work. These various results have possible implications for the design of preservice teacher courses that might enhance opportunities for meaning making.
learning with understanding