Approaching Mathematical Discourse Two analytical frameworks and their relation to problem solving interactions

University dissertation from Västerås : Mälardalens högskola

Abstract: The driving force of conducting the two studies presented in this thesis is to examine ways that conceptual understanding and problem solving could be part of mathematics teaching, and through that, part of students' mathematical knowledge. The specific aims of the thesis are: 1) to characterize the classroom discourse of two, apparently similar, problem solving courses in teacher education and 2) to discuss the possibilities of developing two analytical approaches - the communicational approach to cognition and the dialogical approach - used for studying mathematical discourse. The two aims are elaborated on by means of data collected through audiotaped recordings and field notes from observations of problem-solving activities in engineering and teacher education. In relation to the first aim, the analysis of the classroom discourse within the two courses makes it clear that both courses displayed different kinds of discourse that could be broadly categorized in terms of: subject-oriented, didactically oriented, and problem solving oriented discourses. However, the comparisons between the two courses reveal a marked difference in the distribution of these categories of discourse. It is suggested that the introduction of explicit conceptual frameworks in teaching is of crucial importance for the topical focus of the classroom discourse, and for prospective teachers' opportunity to engage in mathematical productive discourse. The analyses of the two approaches for studying mathematical discourse reveal that the two frameworks can be further developed and the study also indicates ways in which such development can be achieved using a theory of contextualization and theories of mathematical learning. Finally, the thesis discusses theoretical and practical implications of the results, foregrounding issues of importance for the research on mathematical discourse, and for teachers and teacher educators involved in designing instructions for mathematical problem solving.