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Lexical bundle analysis in mathematics classroom discourse: the significance of stance

Abstract

In this article, we introduce the lexical bundle, defined by corpus linguists as a group of three or more words that frequently recur together, in a single group, in a particular register (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad, & Finegan, 2006; Cortes, English for Specific Purposes 23:397–423, 2004). Attention to lexical bundles helps to explore hegemonic practices in mathematics classrooms because lexical bundles play an important role in structuring discourse and are often treated as “common sense” ways of interacting. We narrow our findings and discussion to a particular type of lexical bundle (called a “stance bundle” or bundles that relate to feelings, attitudes, value judgments, or assessments) because it was the most significant type found. Through comparing our corpus from secondary mathematics classrooms with two other corpora (one from university classrooms (not including mathematics classrooms) and one from conversations), we show that most of the stance bundles were particular to secondary mathematics classrooms. The stance bundles are interpreted through the lens of interpersonal positioning, drawing on ideas from systemic functional linguistics. We conclude by suggesting additional research that might be done, discussing limitations of this work, and pointing out that the findings warrant further attention to interpersonal positioning in mathematics classrooms.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. Recent articles by Hayfa (2006) and Kotsopoulos (2006) and responses by Pimm (2007) and Barwell (2007) make it clear that some mathematics education literature confuses these two registers. Lack of clarity can make it difficult to discern how a researcher is conceptualizing, using, and applying these terms.

  2. For additional details about the context and project activities, see Herbel-Eisenmann and Cirillo (2009).

  3. Other analyses using different methods and tools have been reported elsewhere or are forthcoming (e.g., Cirillo, 2008; Herbel-Eisenmann & Cirillo, 2009; Herbel-Eisenmann & Cirillo, 2009; Herbel-Eisenmann & Otten, in review; Males, 2009; Males, Otten, & Herbel-Eisenmann, 2010; Otten & Herbel-Eisenmann, 2009; Wagner & Herbel-Eisenmann, 2008).

  4. Regular mathematics exists in the schools in which students were tracked into below grade level, at grade level (or regular), and advanced courses. The non-tracked systems were in the two rural classrooms in the same school.

  5. We are not using “generalizable” in a conventional statistical way because lexical bundle analysis relies on cut points determined by the field and not on p values or other measures of significance used in typical quantitative analyses.

  6. In Table 2, we used a multiplier of 1.47 and rounded to the nearest whole number to categorize the prevalence (1,000,000 ÷ 679,987 words in our corpora = 1.47).

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the teacher–researchers for allowing us to work in their classrooms and for the time and feedback they offer us. We would also like to thank David Pimm, Sam Otten, Jeffrey Shih, four anonymous reviewers, and Candia Morgan for feedback on earlier drafts of this article. We recognize the contributions of Michelle Cirillo, Sam Otten, Lorraine Males, and Rachel Goeb for their assistance in the data collection and coding processes. The research reported in this article was supported with funding from the National Science Foundation ([NSF], Grant No. 0347906, Herbel-Eisenmann, PI). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.

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Herbel-Eisenmann, B., Wagner, D. & Cortes, V. Lexical bundle analysis in mathematics classroom discourse: the significance of stance. Educ Stud Math 75, 23–42 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10649-010-9253-6

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Keywords

  • Corpus linguistics
  • Hegemonic practices
  • Hidden curriculum
  • Lexical bundle
  • Mathematics education
  • Socio-cultural
  • Stance bundle