Educational Studies in Mathematics

, Volume 83, Issue 3, pp 341–368

The co-construction of learning difficulties in mathematics—teacher–student interactions and their role in the development of a disabled mathematical identity



Leaning on a communicational framework for studying social, affective, and cognitive aspects of learning, the present study offers a new look at the construction of an identity of failure in mathematics as it occurs through teaching–learning interactions. Using the case of Dana, an extremely low-achieving student in 7th grade mathematics, I attempt to unearth the mechanisms of interaction between Dana and myself, her teacher, that instead of advancing Dana, perpetuated her failure. Through examining the interactional routines followed by Dana and me, I show how Dana’s deviations from normative routines resulted in my identification of Dana as “clueless” in mathematics. This identification, shared both by Dana and by me, was accompanied by adherence to ritual rule following that did not enable Dana’s advancement in mathematical discourse. This case points to the need to re-examine permanent difficulties in mathematics in light of the reciprocal nature of such difficulties’ (re)construction in teaching-and-learning interactions.


Learning difficulties Social interaction Identity Communicational framework 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Technion - Israel Institute of TechnologyLapidIsrael

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