Enabling mathematical discourse for English learners during secondary mathematics lessons
Miller, Elyssa R.
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While there is a growing body of research regarding which instructional strategies are beneficial for English Learners (ELs) in mathematics classes (e.g., Chval & Chávez, 2012; Khisty & Chval, 2002; Moll 1988; Moschkovich, 2002), there are few detailed descriptions of what resources ELs draw on to enable their mathematical discourse. Therefore, this dissertation offers a detailed description of how EL students leverage resources contributed by themselves, their teacher, and the mathematical task in order to enable mathematical discourse. At its core, it strives to be an existence proof of how a linguistically diverse classroom with EL students can be a place of rich, meaningful discourse that supports the learning of mathematics. Using data from a teaching experiment designed to create an ideal classroom environment that supports rich mathematical discourse for EL students, I performed an exploratory case study (Yin, 2017) to investigate the following research question: In a specially-designed setting, how can different resources enable discourse for 9th-grade English Learners during mathematics lessons? In particular, I sought to describe the resources contributed by the students, teacher, and task that worked to enable discourse. In Chapter One, I present a statement of the problem, as well as an overview of statistical data regarding English Learners in the United States. Chapter Two is a review of relevant literature. Chapters Three, Four, and Five are each a stand-alone article intended to be submitted for publication. Chapter Three is an article which theorizes resources for enabling discourse. Chapter Four presents results of an empirical study that describes how resources from the student, the teacher, and the task are leveraged by students to enable their discourse. Chapter Five is intended for a practitioner journal and focuses on how the temporizing (intentional delay) of vocabulary can enable discourse for English Learners. Finally, Chapter 6 ties all chapters together and discusses implications and ideas for future research. The benefits of discourse in mathematics classes have been widely studied and accepted. However, there are few studies around how resources are leveraged in order to enable discourse specifically for English Learners studying mathematics in high school classrooms. In addition, there is a pervasive, misguided deficit view of English Learners which may serve as an obstacle for teachers to notice student resources or implement tasks which have the potential for discourse. Small changes in a task or instruction can lead to more opportunities for English Learners to communicate mathematically. Perhaps more important, however, is the need to recognize the abundance of resources that EL students themselves bring into the classroom. By purposefully honoring the multitude of ways students leverage resources to talk about mathematics, access to meaningful mathematics in the classroom can be improved. This can have a lasting impact for students during their time in high school and beyond.