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Identifying authority structures in mathematics classroom discourse: a case of a teacher’s early experience in a new context

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We explore a conceptual frame for analyzing mathematics classroom discourse to understand the way authority is at work. This case study of a teacher moving from a school where he is known to a new setting offers us the opportunity to explore the use of the conceptual frame as a tool for understanding how language practice and authority relate in a mathematics classroom. This case study illuminates the challenges of establishing disciplinary authority in a new context while also developing the students’ sense of authority within the discipline. To analyze the communication in the teacher’s grade 12 class in the first school and grade 9 class early in the year at the new school, we use the four categories of positioning drawn from our earlier analysis of pervasive language patterns in mathematics classrooms—personal authority, discourse as authority, discursive inevitability, and personal latitude.

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This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, as part of a grant entitled “Positioning and Authority in Mathematics Classrooms.”

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Correspondence to David Wagner.

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Wagner, D., Herbel-Eisenmann, B. Identifying authority structures in mathematics classroom discourse: a case of a teacher’s early experience in a new context. ZDM Mathematics Education 46, 871–882 (2014).

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  • Mathematics Teacher
  • Mathematics Classroom
  • Conceptual Frame
  • Language Practice
  • Authority Structure