Harbaugh, Adam Paul (2005-08). Authoritative discourse in the middle school mathematics classroom: a case study. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
    standard of communication, ??Instructional programs from pre-kindergarten through
    grade 12 should enable all students to...communicate their mathematical thinking
    coherently and clearly to peers, teachers, and others?? and students need to learn ??what is
    acceptable as evidence in mathematics?? (NCTM, 2000, p. 60). But do teachers have a
    clear understanding of what is acceptable or do they believe that the only acceptable
    explanations are the ones that they themselves gave to the students? Can teachers accept
    alternative forms of explanation and methods of solution as mathematically accurate or
    do they want students to simply restate the teachers?? understandings of mathematics and
    the problem? The focus of this dissertation is the authoritative discourse practices of
    classroom teachers as they relate to individual students and large and small groups of
    In this case study, I examine the interactions in one eighth-grade mathematics
    classroom and the possible sharing of mathematical authority and development of
    mathematical agency that take place via the teacher??s uses of authoritative discourse. A guiding objective of this research was to examine the ways a teacher??s discursive
    practices were aligned with her pedagogical intentions.
    The teacher for this study was an experienced eighth-grade mathematics teacher
    at a rural Central Texas middle school. The teacher was a participant in the Middle
    School Mathematics Project at Texas A&M University. Results of an analysis of the
    discourse of six selected classes were combined with interview and observation data and
    curriculum materials to inform the research questions.
    I found that through the teacher??s regular use of authoritative discursive devices,
    mathematical authority was infrequently shared. Also the teacher??s uses of authoritative
    discourse helped create an environment where mathematical agency was not encouraged
    or supported. The teacher??s use of various discursive devices helped establish and
    maintain a hierarchy of mathematical authority with students at the lowest level reliant
    on others for various mathematical decisions.

publication date

  • August 2005