• Colin Foster
Open Access


The professional development of mathematics teachers needs to support teachers in orchestrating the mathematics classroom in ways that enable them to respond flexibly and productively to the unexpected. When a situation arises in the classroom which is not connected in an obvious way to the mathematical learning intentions of the lesson, it can be challenging for the teacher to improvise so as to craft this situation into an opportunity for doing and learning mathematics. In this study, as teacher-researcher I maintained a record of unexpected situations as they arose in my own secondary mathematics classroom. Details are given of four unexpected situations which I found ways to exploit mathematically, and these are analysed to highlight factors which may enhance a mathematics teacher’s preparedness for dealing with the unexpected. The results of this study indicate that deviating from the intended lesson to exploit an unexpected situation in which students have shown some interest can lead them into enjoyable and worthwhile mathematical engagement.

Key words

contingency discipline of noticing flow mathematics teaching orchestrating researching own practice unexpected situations 


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© The Author(s) 2014

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK

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