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UBC Theses and Dissertations

How young children negotiate sociomathematical norms during inquiry-based learning in mathematics : a discursive psychological perspective. McLellan, Sylvia Susan


This dissertation uses a discursive psychological perspective to investigate how young children use the structure of spoken language to support their participation in mathematical discussion. There is a general consensus that participation in the practice of collective argumentation not only promotes, but actually constitutes the learning of mathematics (Cobb, Yackel & Wood, 1992a; Krummheuer, 2007). However, given the wide variety of forms that mathematical communication might take (Barwell, Leung, Morgan & Street, 2005), how to fruitfully define and document the practices of communication involved, especially for young learners, remains an open question. Through a series of related discourse analyses (three linked studies carried out on a common data set), I explore some of the discursive practices 5- to 7-year-olds use as they negotiate what will become a taken-as-shared understanding regarding mathematical validity: a sociomathematical norm regarding what it means to know in mathematics. Discursive psychology (Edwards, 1997) affords an examination of how participants treat notions of knowing and understanding during interaction. Using corpus linguistic analysis in the first study here allows me to elaborate features of this group’s culture of negotiation by illuminating patterns in the interactional sequences involving doing knowing. Conversation analysis in the second study affords an examination of the practices by which young children incorporate mathematical content within the social act of negotiation: doing mathematical understanding. Further analysis attending to multimodal aspects of communication in the third study shows how the participants used those previously noted discursive practices to develop and sustain a six week long investigation into the meaning of the square root symbol: doing algebraic reasoning. These analyses show how the children are able to draw upon a range of sociomathematical norms as resources that enable them to participate in ways that co-ordinate with each other. The findings suggest that expanding our expectations for what mathematical knowing looks like with young children affords the development of learning environments that support all children’s sustained, successful engagement with mathematics.

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