The Codevelopment of Mathematical Concepts and the Practice of Defining

  • The Codevelopment of Mathematical Concepts and the Practice of Defining

    Marta Kobiela, McGill University; Richard Lehrer, Vanderbilt University
    We examined the codevelopment of mathematical concepts and the mathematical practice of defining within a sixth-grade class investigating space and geometry. Drawing upon existing literature, we present a framework for describing forms of participation in defining, what we term aspects of definitional practice. Analysis of classroom interactions during 16 episodes spanning earlier and later phases of instruction illustrate how student participation in aspects of definitional practice influenced their emerging conceptions of the geometry of shape and form and how emerging conceptions of shape and form provided opportunities to develop and elaborate aspects of definitional practice. Several forms of teacher discourse appeared to support students’ participation and students’ increasing agency over time. These included: (a) requesting that members of the class participate in various aspects of practice, (b) asking questions that serve to expand the mathematical system, (c) modeling participation in aspects of practice, (d) proposing examples that create contest (i.e., monsters), and (e) explicitly stating expectations of and purposes for participating in the practice.
    Key words: Concepts in practice; Mathematical definitions; Mathematical practices