Norwegian thesis: Tone Bulien

Tone Bulien has defended her thesis (dr. polit): Matematikkopplevelser i lærerutdanningen : en fenomenologisk orientert narrativ analyse av studenttekster (in Norwegian). The thesis is freely available as a pdf, and here is the abstract:

The thesis is a study of texts from and interviews with six Norwegian teacher students enrolled in a compulsory course in mathematics. It is a critical constructive descriptive investigation where the aim has been to listen to the students sharing their experiences studying mathematics. The thesis is not intended as an evaluation of the teacher education program, the students’ work or methodology, but rather as a contribution towards defining the didactic challenges teacher training is faced with. The thesis proceeds from a phenomenological perspective, using narratives as an important feature in both the analysis itself and the presentation of the results. Using phenomenologically oriented knowledge sociology and theories of narrative analysis, a description of the students’ perceptions of teaching and learning mathematics, both prior to and in the course of the compulsory course, is made visible through narratives. The methodology employed is narrative analysis. The students’ experiences are divided into four main areas of beliefs: beliefs about mathematics in general, beliefs about themselves as practitioners of mathematics, beliefs about teaching mathematics, and beliefs about how mathematics are learnt. One of the results indicated that the students’ experience of the compulsory course in mathematics did not depend on their previously held beliefs on mathematics education or their attitudes towards mathematics in general. Another result was that about 50% of all the students had higher expectations about their grade at the beginning of the semester than what they actually ended up with at the end. The reason for this remains to be conclusively demonstrated, but it seems likely that the way mathematics is taught in a teacher training program differs from the students’ previous experiences in how to learn mathematics. This should be taken into consideration in prospective mathematics programs, for instance by supervising the students about their own beliefs in a meta-perspective by analyzing their own narratives and how they are subject to alterations during the course.

New doctoral thesis from Sweden

Eva Riesbeck from Linköping University is defending her thesis on April 11. The thesis is written in Swedish, with an English summary, and the title is “På tal om matematik: matematiken, vardagen och den matematikdidaktiska diskursen“. The main aim of the thesis is to analyze how discourse can be used as a theoretical and didactical concept to help advance knowledge about the teaching of mathematics. Riesbeck has used a socio-cultural perspective, and discourse analysis has been a theoretical point of departure. The thesis is freely available in PDF format. Here is the abstract in its entirety:

The aim of this dissertation is to describe and analyze how discourse as a theoretical and didactical concept can help in advancing knowledge about the teaching of mathematics in school. The dissertation has been written within a socio-cultural perspective where active participation and support from artefacts and mediation are viewed as important contributions to the development of understanding. Discourse analysis was used as a theoretical point of departure to grasp language use, knowledge construction and mathematical content in the teaching practises. The collection of empirical data was made up of video and audio tape recordings of the interaction of teachers and pupils in mathematics classrooms when they deal with problem-solving tasks, as well as discussions between student teachers as they engage in planning a teaching situation in mathematics. Discourse analysis was used as a tool to shed light upon how pupils learn and develop understanding of mathematics.

The results of my studies demonstrate that discussions very often are located in either a mathematical or in an every-day discourse. Furthermore, the results demonstrate how change between every-day and mathematical language often takes place unknowingly. Also the results underline that a specific and precise dialogue can contribute towards teachers’ and pupils’ conscious participation in the learning process. Translated into common vocabulary such as speak, think, write, listen and read teachers and pupils would be able to interact over concepts, signs, words, symbols, situations and phenomena in every-day discourse and its mathematical counterpart. When teachers and pupils become aware of discursive boundary crossing in mathematics an understanding of mathematical phenomena can start to develop. Teachers and pupils can construct a meta-language leading to new knowledge and new learning in mathematics.

Appropriating mathematical tools through problem solving in collaborative small-group settings

This is the title of a new PhD thesis in mathematics education, written by Martin Carlsen, University of Agder. Carlsen defended his thesis last Friday (February 29).

A main element in this thesis is the perspectives on learning mathematics through collaborative problem solving. This perspective has received attention by several of Carlsen’s colleagues in Agder in the past (see e.g. Bjuland, 2004; Borgersen, 1994; Borgersen, 2004). Carlsen presents an analysis of how upper secondary students engage in problem-solving processes in order to achieve mathematical understanding, and he presents four separate studies within this field.

Bjuland, R. (2004). Student teachers’ reflections on their learning process through collaborative problem solving in geometry. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 55(1):199-225.
Borgersen, H. E. (1994). Open ended problem solving in geometry. Nordisk Matematikkdidaktikk, 2(2): 6-35.
Borgersen, H. E. (2004). Open ended problem solving in geometry re-visited. Nordisk Matematikkdidaktikk, 9(3), 35-65.
Carlsen, M. (2008). Appropriating mathematical tools through problem solving in collaborative small-group settings. PhD thesis, University of Agder, Faculty of Engineering and Science, Kristiansand, Norway.