Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 7–26 | Cite as

Social and analytic scaffolding in middle school mathematics: managing the dilemma of telling

  • Juliet A. Baxter
  • Steven WilliamsEmail author


The current reform movement in mathematics education urges teachers to support students as they make sense of mathematics, while also ensuring that they gain specific mathematical skills and knowledge. The tension between these two expectations gives rise to what we call the dilemma of telling: how to ensure that students come to certain mathematical understandings, without directly telling them what they need to know or do. Our study focused on how two middle school mathematics teachers who were incorporating many aspects of reform mathematics into their instruction responded to this dilemma. Data sources include classroom observations and videotapes of lessons over a three-year period. We found that both teachers devoted the majority of class time to student conversations, both small group and whole class; however, the teachers strategically entered the student-dominated conversations by “telling” to meet specific curricular goals.


Discourse Constructivist teaching Scaffolding 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OregonEugeneUSA
  2. 2.Brigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

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