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Communicating Mathematically Across Difference in the Work of Teaching

Primary Investigator(s): Deborah Ball, Maisie Gholson, Mark Hoover

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Period: 9/15/2018 - ongoing

Dr. Deborah Ball, Dr. Maisie Gholson, and Dr. Mark Hoover have been granted an award from the National Science Foundation. “Communicating Mathematically Across Difference in the Work of Teaching” addresses needs regarding STEM professional workforce development and the broadening of participation in STEM. This project centers on (1) understanding what it is involved in communicating mathematically with students across difference in the work of teaching and, based on this, (2) supporting teachers to do this work skillfully. The fundamental demand of teaching is to see, hear, interpret, and extend students’ current ideas and understanding. Students differ from their teachers – in age and gender identity, as well as racial identity, language, social class, and experience. These differences compound the complexity of communicating because implicit racial and gender biases affect teachers’ orientations to seeing students’ capabilities. This project seeks to understand and support the work of communicating mathematically across difference in ways that disrupt the marginalization of Black and brown students, and girls. What is this work and what sort of mathematical skill does it require? The project team will seek to identify how a special kind of mathematical fluency in action might contribute to improving both theory and practice with respect to the mathematical work of teaching across difference.

In the first phase of the project the team will study teaching, with an eye to identifying the interactive mathematical work of teaching across difference. The team will analyze videotaped lessons grades 4-8 in a sample of classrooms with significant racial and linguistic diversity. The focus will be on listening to, interpreting, talking with, and responding to students.

The second phase will involve designing and enacting specific interventions, based on the progress in the first phase, to help practicing teachers shift from predominant patterns of overlooking or misinterpreting minoritized students to focusing on students’ strengths and developing fluency and attunement in hearing and talking across difference. The project will offer specific opportunities for teachers to extend their ability to do this interactive mathematical work and will develop and use tools for tracking their evolving mathematical fluency and attunement.