Students’ Perceptions on Communicating Mathematically: A Case Study of a Secondary Mathematics Classroom

By Jingzi Huang and Bruce Normandia.

Published by The Learner Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper takes Vygotsky’s constructivist point of view to report on the findings of a case study focusing on students’ perceptions on communicating mathematically. The study is motivated by the demand for reform and the new curriculum standards for math education that emphasize the importance of conceptual knowledge, reasoning, discourse, and representation (Draper, 2002; NCTM, 2000; etc.). It is also motivated by existing research that calls for a connection to be made between language and mathematics to promote understanding (Hiebert et al., 1996; MacGregor & Price, 1999; Manouchehri & Enderson, 1999; etc.).

In this paper, examination of students’ perceptions on talking and writing math is situated in the instructional discourse as analyzed on the basis of classroom observation. Specific questions guiding the study include: How do students view the role of talking and writing in relation to different aspects of math performance? How do students’ perceptions on talking and writing math serve as dispositions for their performance in talking and writing math? Data were collected through classroom observations, audio taping, and collection of artifacts such as relevant chapters in the textbook, course plans, and student work products including oral interactions and written work. Informal interviews were conducted during the entire period of data collection in the form of “informal conversational interviews” (McMillan & Schumacher, 1989, p.405). Formal interviews were conducted on a voluntary basis and focused mainly on their perceptions about the relationship between communication in mathematics and mathematics learning.

At the theoretical level, the study contributes to our understanding of how students perceive the issue of communication about mathematics. Such a perspective may provide researchers and educators with a better focus on the relations between students’ understanding and performance in particular communication activities in school math. As a result, the study offers pedagogical implications and directions for classroom actions.

Keywords: Mathematics Education, Communicating Mathematically, Students’ Perceptions

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp.1-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.320MB).

Dr. Jingzi Huang

Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instuction, School of Education, Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ, USA

Growing up and educated in China, further educated and “polished” in Canada, and currently teaching and researching in an American University, I have cultivated in myself the sensitivity to language issues across academic settings. With a Ph.D in Curriculum and Instruction from University of British Columbia, I am currently working as an Associate Professor of language education, the Chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Department, and the University Coordinator for the On-campus LMS Support Services. Teaching courses in the areas of ESL education, foreign language education, diversity in the classroom, and content literacy across the curriculum, I have been doing research in all these areas focusing on classroom discourse, integration of language and content, and mainstreamed ESL students at all levels. Recent publications include articles in Communication Education; Language and Education; Linguistics and Education; Language, Culture, and Curriculum; International Journal of Learning; International Journal of Applied Linguistics; Language Teaching Research. Most recently, I am working on the topic of “Talking Math” and “Writing Math”.

Dr. Bruce Normandia

Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, School of Education, Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ, USA


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