RUTH M. STEINBERG, SUSAN B. EMPSON and THOMAS P. CARPENTER
INQUIRY INTO CHILDREN’S MATHEMATICAL THINKINGAS A MEANS TO TEACHER CHANGE
ABSTRACT. In the context of U.S. and world wide educational reforms that requireteachers to understand and respond to student thinking about mathematics in new ways,ongoing learning from practice is a necessity. In this paper we report on this process forone teacher in one especially productive year of learning. This case study documents howMs. Statz’s engagement with children’s thinking changed dramatically in a period of onlya few months; observations and interviews several years later conﬁrm she sustained thischange. Our analysis focuses on the mathematical discussions she had with her students,and suggests this talk with children about their thinking in instruction served both as anindex of change, and, in combination with other factors, as a mechanism for change. Weidentiﬁed four phases in Ms. Statz’s growth toward practical inquiry, distinguished by heruse of interactive talk with children. Motivating the evolution of phases were two sorts of mechanisms: scaffolded examination of her students’ thinking; and asking and answeringquestions about individual students’ thinking. Processes for generating and testing knowl-edge about children’s thinking ultimately became integrated into Ms. Statz’s instructionalpractices as she created opportunities for herself, and then students, to hear and respond tochildren’s thinking.KEY WORDS: discourse community, elementary mathematics, practical inquiry, teacherchange, teacher learning, teacher reﬂection
Mathematics educators have articulated a vision for teaching mathematicsthat includes engaging students in problem solving, mathematical argu-mentation, and reﬂective communication (NCTM, 1991, 2001). Calls forinstructional reform in mathematics have been accompanied by demands,in many countries, for radical changes in teaching practices. Many teachershave learned to teach in ways consistent with calls for reform (Cobb, Wood& Yackel, 1990; Cobb & McClain, 2001; Fennema et al., 1997; Hiebert,Carpenter, Fennema et al., 1997; Hiebert & Wearne, 1993; Jaworski, Wood& Dawson, 1999; Schifter & Fosnot, 1993; Sullivan & Mousley, 2001).Without attention to how teachers learn, however, our understanding of instructional reform is seriously incomplete (Franke, Carpenter, Levi &Fennema, 2001; Hammer & Schifter, 2001; Richardson & Placier, 2001;Schön, 1983; Sherin, 2002).A small but growing body of research has focused on teacher learningas practical inquiry into the problems of teaching (Jaworski, 1998, 2001;
Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education
237–267, 2004.© 2004
Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.