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Theory to practice: Prospective mathematics teachers’ recontextualizing discourses surrounding collective argumentation

A Correction to this article was published on 20 June 2021

This article has been updated


Teacher education programs have a critical role in supporting prospective teachers’ connections between theory and practice. In this study, we examined three prospective secondary mathematics teachers’ discourses regarding collective argumentation during and after a unit of instruction addressing collective argumentation and ways they recontextualized their on-campus coursework (theory) into their student teaching (practice) as demonstrated by their support for students’ mathematical arguments during student teaching. Through a recursive process of coding data from interviews, reflections, and classroom discussions, we constructed descriptions of participants’ discourses about argumentation based in their coursework and identified three themes about collective argumentation in the prospective teachers’ discourses: the purposes of argumentation, the role of the teacher in argumentation, and characteristics of effective mathematical arguments. Analysis using extended Toulmin diagrams of classroom data from participants’ student teaching showed that these three interrelated themes were visible in the participants’ enactment of moves supporting collective argumentation. Our study opens spaces for future investigations into how teachers recontextualize their learning from coursework (theory) into their practice.

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Change history


  1. 1.

    We use argumentation and collective argumentation interchangeably to mean argumentation happening in a mathematics classroom; like others we do not assume an argument to be deductive in nature (see e.g., Conner et al. 2014a; Krummheuer 1995).

  2. 2.

    Mathematical argumentation is defined as interactions that include mathematical claims and warrants or evidence of support for claims (Conner et al. 2014b).

  3. 3.

    From a Foucauldian perspective, “discourses map out for teachers, students, and others ways of living in the classroom and ways of being within other institutions of mathematics education” (Stinson and Walshaw 2017, p. 140). Ways of communicating and being are seen as shared and understood across communities. These ways of being-in-the-world are accepted as normal or being seen as belonging (Goffman 1959). Mathematical discourse is more than just the spoken aspects of communicating mathematical thinking. Our use of discourses does not only refer to the spoken word and actions (e.g., gestures, facial expressions, representations, power-knowledge relations; Foucault 1972) individuals use to relate to their mathematical thinking or warrant a mathematical claim, but also the representations of social status constructed through language and dialogue (Bhaktin 1981).

  4. 4.

    The individual defined and argued why the arguments they wrote about in their reflections were more or less effective based on the readings and discussions from the unit on collective argumentation.

  5. 5.

    Instructional units were designed by the participants and their partners during their student teaching experience. The participants were given liberty to design the unit following the school district’s pacing guide. Cathy’s curriculum materials adopted by the district while Susan designed her own materials based on her mentor teacher’s materials and William co-designed the unit with other student teachers, loosely based on the state curriculum frameworks.

  6. 6.

    In the larger study following the cohort of prospective students over their 2-year teacher preparation program, interviews 1, 2, and 3 occurred during the first year of the program. During this time, the participants’ coursework peripherally discussed aspects of argumentation but did not go in-depth into mathematical argumentation until the argumentation unit during their 3rd methods course.

  7. 7.

    Reports generated by Transana include coded transcript excerpts linked to video and are generated by individual codes or combination of codes linked by Boolean operators.

  8. 8.

    Memo included patterns derived from our analysis of support for argumentation based on extended Toulmin diagrams.


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This paper is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1149436. Opinions, findings, and conclusions in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agency. The authors wish to thank Kathleen Heid for comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Carlos Nicolas Gomez Marchant.

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Gomez Marchant, C.N., Park, H., Zhuang, Y. et al. Theory to practice: Prospective mathematics teachers’ recontextualizing discourses surrounding collective argumentation. J Math Teacher Educ 24, 671–699 (2021).

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  • Collective argumentation
  • Recontextualization
  • Secondary prospective teachers
  • Mathematics teacher education