, Volume 47, Issue 7, pp 1285–1298 | Cite as

Univocal and dialogic discourse in secondary mathematics classrooms: the case of attending to precision

  • Samuel OttenEmail author
  • Christopher Engledowl
  • Vickie Spain
Original Article


Univocal discourse, characterized by its function of conveying information from one person to another, is common in mathematics classrooms but dialogic teaching aims at students coming to participate in dialogic discourse, that is, discourse functioning to generate new meaning within a community. Many mathematical practices are directed at the development and refinement of new mathematical ideas, and many mathematics educators call for collaborative sense making, so there is potential for mutual support between dialogic discourse and such practices as attending to precision. Drawing on data from five secondary mathematics classrooms, this study focused on instances of attending to precision in whole-class settings. We coded these instances based on the degree to which the discourse was univocal or dialogic. We found that the instances were predominantly univocal but that these univocal instances varied with regard to whose ideas were being transmitted—the teacher’s or a student’s. Dialogic instances were rare but we share examples in which the co-construction of meaning through discourse involved attending to precision in ways that were qualitatively different than the univocal instances. The study provides illustrations of dialogic interactions and discusses the balance between univocal and dialogic discourse that is sought within dialogic teaching. It also contributes to the field an initial analytic framework for and examples of attending to precision in secondary classrooms. We discuss implications with regard to students’ roles in secondary mathematics classroom discourse.


Classroom discourse Communication Attending to precision Dialogic discourse 



This study was supported by the University of Missouri Research Council and the University of Missouri System Research Board. We thank the participating teachers and students who made this work possible.


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Copyright information

© FIZ Karlsruhe 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel Otten
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christopher Engledowl
    • 1
  • Vickie Spain
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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