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New Book Aims to Improve Student Achievement in Mathematics

Choppin Collaborates on Book Exploring Equitable Classroom Practices in Mathematics

The words spoken, heard, written, and read in mathematics classrooms help to shape students' understanding of what mathematics is and its place in the world. A new book, co-edited and co-authored by Jeffrey Choppin, associate professor of mathematics education at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, explores the connection between the language used in mathematics classrooms and the opportunities to learn math.

Choppin collaborated with Beth Herbel-Eisenmann of Michigan State University, David Wagner of the University of New Brunswick, and David Pimm of the University of Alberta, to edit Equity in Discourse for Mathematics Education: Theories, Practices, and Policies (Springer, 2012). The book includes 13 chapters authored by over 15 leading education researchers.

The work from this book builds from an international conference held May 2008 in Rochester, N.Y., where 35 scholars and practitioners from six countries, spanning both hemispheres and four continents, discussed research on a range of classroom practices that may broaden the range of students who participate and learn mathematics with meaning. The conference, funded in 2007 when Choppin, Herbel-Eisenmann, and Wagner received a grant from the National Science Foundation, brought together top scholars who are known for their work in equity or on discourse in mathematics learning contexts.

Jeffrey ChoppinIn an effort to close the achievement gap in math, this international conference brought together research on the most promising practices for teaching mathematics to students from diverse backgrounds,” says Choppin, who co-hosted the four-day conference. “By addressing issues of culture, diversity, and equity, we created this book to highlight classroom practices that expand student participation in mathematics classrooms.”

The book, which was written for mathematics educators and researchers, investigates connections between equity—providing opportunities for all students to participate in meaningful ways—and discourse, a range of practices including verbal communication, writing, reading, listening, and other forms of interaction, that together help students develop competency in mathematical practices.

Choppin, Herbel-Eisenmann, Wagner, and Pimm, together with a group of top research scholars in the interrelated fields of discourse and equity contributing chapters, provide a set of scholarly resources that show the interrelatedness of classroom discourse practices and equitable opportunities to learn mathematics. The book builds from a diversity of perspectives to show how discourse practices in a range of linguistic and geographic contexts provide (or deny) openings for all students to develop mathematical competencies and dispositions.

While every chapter relates to interactions among and opportunities for all students to learn in mathematics classrooms, the authors have emphasized discourse and equity differently. The first part of the book includes examples of work that starts from an orientation to equity and the second half of the book includes examples starting with a discourse orientation. The third set of chapters connects the research to policy implications.

As noted in the book, discourse practices warrant the attention of mathematics educators because discourse is the primary medium of education. In recent years, the themes of discourse and equity have been widely explored in mathematics education literature, though not often together.  

“When discourse and equity have been explored together, the goal has typically been to propose ways to increase access to participation in dominant mathematically-based discourse practices, such as argumentation,” explain the book’s co-editors. “Our book builds from the expanded views of equity, discourse, and mathematics to explore mathematics education in a range of contexts, with the goal ultimately of broadening opportunities for students to become ‘better persons in their own eyes, not just in the eyes of others.’”
Donna Harris
The book also contains a chapter, co-authored by Warner School faculty member Donna Harris, that offers insight into equity, mathematics reform, and policy. This chapter focuses on existing policy contexts that have the potential to limit student access to valued forms of discourse and, as a result, impede the development of equitable learning opportunities.

Choppin is a mathematics educator, directing the mathematics teacher education program at Warner. In addition to investigating issues on equitable classrooms practices in mathematics, he also focuses his research on the ways teachers develop the capacity to use innovative curriculum materials and what they learn in the process, particularly with the ways that students reason around mathematical concepts.

For additional information about Equity in Discourse for Mathematics Education, visit Springer Publishing.

About the Warner School of Education
Founded in 1958, the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education offers master's and doctoral degree programs in teaching and curriculum, school leadership, higher education, counseling, human development, and educational policy. The Warner School of Education offers a new accelerated option for its EdD programs that allows eligible students to earn a doctorate in education in as few as three years part time while holding a professional job in the same field. The Warner School of Education is recognized both regionally and nationally for its tradition of preparing practitioners and researchers to become leaders and agents of change in schools, universities, and community agencies; generating and disseminating research; and actively participating in education reform.

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Media Contact: Theresa Danylak
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Tags: Donna Harris, Jeffrey Choppin, mathematics education, teacher preparation, teaching and curriculum