Educational Studies in Mathematics

, Volume 68, Issue 3, pp 247–261 | Cite as

Learning opportunities from group discussions: warrants become the objects of debate

  • Keith Weber
  • Carolyn Maher
  • Arthur Powell
  • Hollylynne Stohl Lee


In the mathematics education literature, there is currently a debate about the mechanisms by which group discussion can contribute to mathematical learning and under what conditions this learning is likely to occur. In this paper, we contribute to this debate by illustrating three learning opportunities that group discussions can create. In analyzing a videotaped episode of eight middle school students discussing a statistical problem, we observed that these students frequently challenged the arguments that their colleagues presented. These challenges invited students to be explicit about what mathematical principles, or warrants, they were implicitly using as a basis for their mathematical claims, in some cases recognize the modes of reasoning they were using were invalid and reject these modes of reasoning, and in other cases, attempt to provide deductive support to justify why their modes of reasoning were appropriate. We then describe what social and environmental conditions allowed the discussion analyzed in this paper to occur.


Discussion Discourse Mathematics education Probability Statistics 



We would like to thank Chris Rasmussen, Matthew Inglis, and the reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keith Weber
    • 1
  • Carolyn Maher
    • 1
  • Arthur Powell
    • 1
  • Hollylynne Stohl Lee
    • 2
  1. 1.Graduate School of EducationRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.North Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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