Further directions

I have suggested reformulating questions that conventionally reside in other domains of mathematics education research in terms of communication. While I would not wish to be such an imperialist as to suggest that this is the only or even the best way of addressing mathematics classroom practices, I believe that conceptualising classrooms in terms of communication opens up possibilities for drawing on theoretical approaches that offer useful insights and methodological tools that enable us to construct systematically theorised approaches to the analysis of qualitative data. The theoretical resources and methodological approaches presented in this chapter illustrate the potential of such a conceptualisation. Other resources from fields such as linguistics, discourse theory, philosophy and sociology' may offer further approaches to studying classrooms as sites of communication. There is certainly scope to explore such resources, the research questions they generate, the conceptual and analytic tools they provide and the insights that they may offer to the field of mathematics education.

A further issue that I have not addressed in this chapter is the possibility of using insights arising from a focus on communication in order to engineer changes. As suggested in discussing the first example presented above, attempts to ‘simplify’ the language used in an examination item or to present tasks in multilingual classrooms may change the way the mathematics is construed as well as changing the reading difficulty. Changes in communication practices do not necessarily have simple or predictable consequences but offer important sites for research (Tabach & Nachlieli, 2011).

Acknowledgements

The research reported in Example 1 was part of the project The Evolution of School Mathematics Discourse, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council [grant number ES/1007311/1J.This project was undertaken in collaboration with Anna Sfard and Sarah Tang.The data in Example 2 was collected by Lisa Bjorklund Boistrup as part of her doctoral research. The original ethical approval for data collection allows re-use in the current form.

Notes

  • 1 Data originally in Swedish, translated by Dr. Bjorklund Boistrup.
  • 2 It is worth noting that this self-assessment task was included in the textbook material and was inspired by elements of the Swedish national tests. It may thus be considered an ‘official’ component of the pedagogy.

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