Mathematics classroom talk in a migrating world : synthesizing epistemological dimensions

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Mathematics classroom talk in a migrating world : synthesizing epistemological dimensions


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Publication Doctoral Thesis
Doctoral Thesis, comprehensive summary
Title Mathematics classroom talk in a migrating world : synthesizing epistemological dimensions
Author Ryan, Ulrika
Date 2019
English abstract
This thesis is an expedition into and beyond students’ mathematics talk in classrooms framed by migration as a matter of dichotomization between named languages and (in)formal aspects of one fixed mathematics. It is an attempt to make sense of how students grapple with and move about the divides that those dichotomizations shapes. I ask; How do students in a Grade 5 classroom framed by migration navigate language and epistemological divides when talking about mathematics? and What theoretical conceptualization of epistemological dimensions of language diversity can be used to frame the students’ navigation of the divides? ‘Navigation’ and ‘navigate’ are the metaphors I use for finding one’s way in spaces that do not have established paths to follow. In this thesis epistemological divides articulate difference when individuals and/or cultures take and treat something as mathematical knowledge. They emerge when people do and talk about mathematics. My focus is not primarily on how students learn mathematics through their navigation, but rather on how the students inhabit the learn-ing space together—how they relate to each other—as they navigate.To grapple with the research questions above, to learn about multiple relational aspects of how students navigate language and epistemological divides when they talk about school mathematics, I have used a flexible research design in a multilingual, yet ‘Swedish-only’ Grade 5 (students aged 11) classroom in the south of Sweden. Theoretically I bring together a) linguistic inferentialism as an alternative to the representation paradigm, b) social interaction and ecological approaches on knowledge to frame the relationship between language and c) mathematics in students’ talk in a classroom with a complex diversity of languages and socio-economic backgrounds. Results show that when students in the Grade 5 class navigated language and epistemological divides they demonstrated solidarity and sometimes perform aggressive actions towards each other in their encounters with mathematical knowledge and language diversity. These performances were theoretically conceptualized as meta-understanding of multilingualism (MULD) or lack of MULD. The performances are understood as connected to the mathematics based discursive spaces (MBDS) that emerged when the students discoursed. The present thesis contributes to the field by taking an ecology-based relational approach towards language and epistemology in order to provide tools for considering students’ responsive translanguaging in multilingual classrooms with no shared languages (except the language of instruction). In addition, this thesis is the first to use inferentialism for ecology-based approaches on social epistemological issues of multilingualism in mathematics education research.
DOI (link to publisher's fulltext.)
Publisher Malmö university
Series/Issue Malmö Studies in Educational Sciences : Doctoral Dissertation Series;89
ISSN 1651-4513
ISBN 978-91-7877-004-5
Language eng (iso)
Subject Language diversity
mathematics education
meta-understanding of language diversity
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES
Included papers
  1. Ryan, U., & Parra, A. (2019). Epistemological as-pects of multilingualism in mathematics education: An inferentialist approach. Research in Mathematics Education 21(2), 152-167. DOI;

  2. Ryan, U., Andersson, A., & Chronaki, A. (accept-ed). “Mathematics is bad for society”: Reasoning about mathematics as part of society in a language diverse middle school classroom. In Andersson, A., & Barwell, R. (Eds.), Applying critical perspectives in mathematics education. (in progress) Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

  3. Ryan, U. (2019). Mathematical preciseness and epistemological sanctions. For the Learning of Mathematics, 39(2), 25-29.

  4. Ryan, U., & Chronaki, A. (submitted). A joke on precision? Revisiting ‘precision’ in the school mathematics discourse.

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