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Speaking or not speaking as a cultural practice: analysis of mathematics classroom discourse in Shanghai, Seoul, and Melbourne
journal contributionposted on 2019-09-01, 00:00 authored by Lihua XuLihua Xu, D Clarke
The benefits of engaging students in mathematics classroom dialogue have been highlighted (and advocated) in a large body of research studies, most of which were conducted in Western cultural contexts. Whether such research advocacy can be extended legitimately to encompass practice in classrooms situated in other cultural contexts, such as East Asian classrooms, remains a matter for empirical investigation. In this paper, we problematize the assumptions underpinning this advocacy of “mathematical dialogue in classrooms” by revisiting several conceptualizations of the role of language in mathematics classrooms and by considering particular forms of communication in classrooms often undervalued in the research literature. To support such problematization, we draw upon an analysis of classroom discourse in nine classrooms situated in Shanghai, Seoul, and Melbourne from the Learner’s Perspective Study. The results of the analysis demonstrate some interesting variations in the extent to which the discursive practice of each classroom afforded or constrained the opportunities for students to speak mathematically, and its consequences for student learning as indicated by student mathematical fluency demonstrated in the post-lesson interviews. Such variations provide insight into the differences in inspirations and cultural values attached to particular types of mathematical performance. We argue that our theories should anticipate application in culturally differentiated settings and be sensitive to the constraints and affordance that culture might place on classroom discourse practices.