Working with Learners’ Mathematical Thinking: Towards A Language of Description for Changing Pedagogy

Jan. 15, 2011

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 27, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 174-186.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the author explores the practices of four secondary school teachers in Johannesburg as they deliberately tried to shift their practices to focus on learners’ thinking through classroom talk.


The participants in this study were four secondary school mathematics teachers, teaching for two weeks each, approximately two months apart. The teachers were observed and videotaped in one Grade 10 or 11 classroom each.

The teachers were all enrolled on an in-service post-graduate degree program at a university in Johannesburg. The programme developed teachers’ knowledge of the new curriculum in mathematics.

The teachers taught in four differently resourced schools in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Two schools are in poor socio-economic areas, are under-resourced, and serve exclusively black learners. One school is in a lower-middle class area, with adequate resources and with a racially diverse learner profile. The fourth is a private, extremely well-resourced school, serving very wealthy learners who are predominantly white and all boys.

A set of codes is developed to describe teachers’ changing practices. The codes build on existing analyses of teacher talk and take these further by further elaborating a notion of follow up, which is key to the work of seriously engaging with learners’ contributions.

The codes illuminate the similarities and differences across four secondary school mathematics teachers as they shift their practices to take account of learners’ thinking.

The study showed that there was a clear shift in the teacher moves, towards more reform-oriented moves.

Updated: Nov. 21, 2011