Writing Mathematically: The Discourse of Investigation

Writing Mathematically: The Discourse of Investigation

Writing Mathematically: The Discourse of Investigation

Writing Mathematically: The Discourse of Investigation

Synopsis

School maths curricula internationally tend to emphasize problem-solving and have led to the development of opportunities for children to do maths in a more open, creative way. This has led to increased interest in 'performance-based' assessment, which involves children in substantial production of written language to serve as 'evidence' of their mathematical activity and achievement. However, this raises two important questions. Firstly, does this writing accurately present children's mathematical activity and ability? Secondly, do maths teachers have sufficient linguistic awareness to support their students in developing skills and knowledge necessary for writing effectively in their subject area? The author of this book takes a critical perspective on these questions and, through an investigation of teachers' readings and evaluations of coursework texts, identifies the crucial issues affecting the accurate assessment of school mathematics.

Excerpt

Preface by Series Editor

Mathematics education is established world-wide as a major area of study, with numerous dedicated journals and conferences serving ever-growing national and international communities of scholars. As it develops, research in mathematics education is becoming more theoretically orientated. Although originally rooted in mathematics and psychology, vigorous new perspectives are pervading it from disciplines and fields as diverse as philosophy, logic, sociology, anthropology, history, women’s studies, cognitive science, linguistics, semiotics, hermeneutics, post-structuralism and post-modernism. These new research perspectives are providing fresh lenses through which teachers and researchers can view the theory and practice of mathematics teaching and learning.

The series Studies in Mathematics Education aims to encourage the development and dissemination of theoretical perspectives in mathematics education as well as their critical scrutiny. It is a series of research contributions to the field based on disciplined perspectives that link theory with practice. This series is founded on the philosophy that theory is the practitioner’s most powerful tool in understanding and changing practice. Whether the practice concerns the teaching and learning of mathematics, teacher education, or educational research, the series offers new perspectives to help clarify issues, pose and solve problems and stimulate debate. It aims to have a major impact on the development of mathematics education as a field of study in the twenty-first century.

One of the major areas of growth in mathematics education research concerns the interactions between language, linguistics and mathematics. Although it has long been recognized that symbols and symbolization and, hence, language, play a uniquely privileged role in mathematics and its teaching and learning, the systematic application of linguistics and discourse theory to the field has been slow to develop. I would like to speculate that this may be due to two factors. First of all, thinking about mathematics has until recently been dominated by an absolutist epistemology which suggests that the role of language in mathematics is merely to describe the superhuman realm of ‘mathematical reality’. Furthermore, the correct use of language in mathematics is for the same reason understood to be determined by the immutable canons of logic. Secondly, the dominance of mathematics education by traditional psychological theories has also meant that mathematical thought and cognitions have been foregrounded at the expense of mathematical talk and writing. Indeed, as Candia Morgan says here, there is a widespread, associated and problematic myth of transparency which assumes that talk and text provide a non-distorting window into the mind of the speaker/writer.

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