Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 31–48 | Cite as

Introducing a symbolic interactionist approach on teaching mathematics: the case of revoicing as an interactional strategy in the teaching of probability

  • Andreas EckertEmail author
  • Per Nilsson


This study examines an interactional view on teaching mathematics, whereby meaning is co-produced with the students through a process of negotiation. Further, teaching is viewed from a symbolic interactionism perspective, allowing the analysis to focus on the teacher’s role in the negotiation of meaning. Using methods inspired by grounded theory, patterns of teachers’ interaction are categorized. The results show how teachers’ actions, interpretations and intentions form interactional strategies that guide the negotiation of meaning in the classroom. The theoretical case of revoicing as a teacher action, together with interpretations of mathematical objects from probability theory, is used to exemplify conclusions from the proposed perspective. Data are generated from a lesson sequence with two teachers working with known and unknown constant sample spaces with their classes. In the lessons presented in this article, the focus is on negotiations of the meaning of chance. The analysis revealed how the teachers indicate their interpretations of mathematical objects and intentions to the students to different degrees and, by doing so, create opportunities for the students to ascribe meaning to these objects. The discussion contrasts the findings with possible interpretations from other perspectives on teaching.


Interactional teaching strategy Teaching Symbolic interactionism Revoicing Probability 


  1. Ball, D. L., & Bass, H. (2000). Interweaving content and pedagogy in teaching and learning to teach: Knowing and using mathematics. In J. Boaler (Ed.), Multiple perspectives on the teaching and learning of mathematics (pp. 83–104). Westport, CT: Ablex.Google Scholar
  2. Ball, D. L., Thames, M. H., & Phelps, G. (2008). Content knowledge for teaching: What makes it special? Journal of Teacher Education, 59(5), 389–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barwell, R. (2013). Discursive psychology as an alternative perspective on mathematics teacher knowledge. ZDM, 45(4), 595–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blumer, H. (1986). Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and method. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Brousseau, G., Brousseau, N., & Warfield, V. (2001). An experiment on the teaching of statistics and probability. The Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 20(3), 363–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burgess, T. A. (2006). A framework for examining teacher knowledge as used in action while teaching statistics. Paper presented at the working cooperatively in statistics education: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Teaching Statistics. Salvador, Brazil.Google Scholar
  7. Burgess, T. A. (2008). Teacher knowledge for teaching statistics through investigations. Paper presented at The Joint ICMI/IASE Study: Teaching statistics in school mathematics: Challenges for teaching and teacher education, Monterrey, Mexico.Google Scholar
  8. Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  9. Charmaz, K. (2008a). A future for symbolic interactionism. Studies in Symbolic Interaction, 32, 51–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Charmaz, K. (2008b). The legacy of Anselm Strauss in constructivist grounded theory. Studies in Symbolic Interaction, 32, 127–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cobb, P., Stephan, M., McClain, K., & Gravemeijer, K. (2001). Participating in classroom mathematical practices. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 10(1), 113–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Davis, B., & Simmt, E. (2006). Mathematics-for-teaching: An ongoing investigation of the mathematics that teachers (need to) know. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 61(3), 293–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Flyvbjerg, B. (2006). Five misunderstandings about case-study research. Qualitative Inquiry, 12(2), 219–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Forman, E. A., Larreamendy-Joerns, J., Stein, M. K., & Brown, C. A. (1998a). “You’re going to want to find out which and prove it”: Collective argumentation in a mathematics classroom. Learning and Instruction, 8(6), 527–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Forman, E. A., Mccormick, D. E., & Donato, R. (1998b). Learning what counts as a mathematical explanation. Linguistics and Education, 9(4), 313–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gellert, A. (2014). Students discussing mathematics in small-group interactions: Opportunities for discursive negotiation processes focused on contentious mathematical issues. ZDM, 46(6), 855–869.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Groth, R. E. (2013). Characterizing key developmental understandings and pedagogically powerful ideas within a statistical knowledge for teaching framework. Mathematical Thinking and Learning: An International Journal, 15(2), 121–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Herbel-Eisenmann, B., Drake, C., & Cirillo, M. (2009). “Muddying the clear waters”: Teachers’ take-up of the linguistic idea of revoicing. Teaching and Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, 25(2), 268–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hill, H. C., Rowan, B., & Ball, D. L. (2005). Effects of teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching on student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 42(2), 371–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jaworski, B. (1994). Investigating mathematics teaching: A constructivist enquiry. London: Falmer.Google Scholar
  21. Jones, G. A., Langrall, C. W., & Mooney, E. S. (2007). Research in probability: Responding to classroom realities. In F. K. Lester (Ed.), Second handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning (Vol. 2, pp. 909–956). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Pub.Google Scholar
  22. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. California: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. Liu, Y., & Thompson, P. (2007). Teachers’ understandings of probability. Cognition & Instruction, 25(2/3), 113–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ma, L. (1999). Knowing and teaching mathematics: Teachers understanding of fundamental mathematics in China and the United States. Mahwah: Lawrence Eribaum.Google Scholar
  25. Miles, M., & Huberman, M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.Google Scholar
  26. Nilsson, P. (2007). Different ways in which students handle chance encounters in the explorative setting of a dice game. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 66(3), 293–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nilsson, P., & Lindström, T. (2013). Prolifing Swedish teachers’ knowledge base in probability. Nomad, 18(4), 51–72.Google Scholar
  28. O’Connor, M. C., & Michaels, S. (1993). Aligning academic task and participation status through revoicing—analysis of a classroom discourse strategy. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 24(4), 318–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ordbok över svenska språket. (1893). Lund: Svenska akademien.Google Scholar
  30. Petrou, M., & Goulding, M. (2011). Conceptualising teachers’ mathematical knowledge in teaching. In T. Rowland & K. Ruthven (Eds.), Mathematical knowledge in teaching (pp. 9–26). Netherlands: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Putnam, R. T., & Borko, H. (2000). What do new views of knowledge and thinking have to say about research on teacher learning? Educational Researcher, 29(1), 4–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rowland, T., Huckstep, P., & Thwaites, A. (2005). Elementary teachers’ mathematics subject knowledge: The knowledge quartet and the case of Naomi. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 8(3), 255–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Shannon, C. E. (1948). A mathematical theory of communication. Bell System Technical Journal, 27(3), 379–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Speer, N., King, K., & Howell, H. (2014). Definitions of mathematical knowledge for teaching: Using these constructs in research on secondary and college mathematics teachers. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 18(2), 105–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Steinbring, H. (1991). The concept of chance in everyday teaching: Aspects of a social epistemology of mathematical knowledge. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 22(6), 503–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Steinbring, H. (1993). The context for the concept of chance—everyday experiences in classroom interactions. Acta didactica Universitatis Comenianae Mathematics, 2, 20–32.Google Scholar
  39. Steinbring, H. (1998). Elements of epistemological knowledge for mathematics teachers. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 1(2), 157–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stohl, H., & Tarr, J. E. (2002). Developing notions of inference using probability simulation tools. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 21(3), 319–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Strauss, A. L., & Corbin, J. (1997). Grounded theory in practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  42. Voigt, J. (1996). Negotiation of mathematical meaning in classroom processes: Social interaction and learning mathematics. In L. P. Steffe, P. Nesher, P. Cobb, G. A. Goldin, & B. Greer (Eds.), Theories of mathematical learning. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  43. Watson, J. M. (2001). Profiling teachers’ competence and confidence to teach particular mathematics topics: The case of chance and data. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 4(4), 305–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MathematicsLinnaeus UniversityVäxjöSweden
  2. 2.School of Science and TechnologyÖrebro UniversityÖrebroSweden

Personalised recommendations