Dissertations and Theses @ UNI

Award Winner

Recipient of the 2013 Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award.

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Open Access Dissertation


Mathematics--Study and teaching (Middle school); Educational change;


In this qualitative case study, I explored how Maggie, the teacher, and her students used language to advance students' conceptual understanding of mathematics in a reform-based mathematics classroom. Specifically I sought to describe how Maggie's reform-based mathematics classroom environment impacted the quantity and quality of mathematical language spoken by her students. Maggie's eighth-grade mathematics classroom was observed during a course of study on data and statistics. Three semi-structured interviews with Maggie, artifacts provided by her, and fourteen 52-minute classroom lessons, supported with field notes, were analyzed.

Environmental themes were revealed as they related to Maggie, her beliefs, goals, knowledge, and what she said. Maggie's talk was framed by five productive teacher-talk moves. The quantity of student talk was analyzed according to three variations of the three-phase reform-based mathematics lesson (Direct Instruction, Guided Discovery, Open-Ended Exploration) and three talk formats (Whole-Class Discussion, Partner Talk, Small-Group Discussion). Due to the Maggie's diminished role during Partner Talk and Small-Group Discussion, an in-depth analysis was conducted to determine what students were talking about when they worked independently. This revealed a qualitative change over the course of the unit. Further analysis revealed that students engaged in two mathematical Discourses: Procedural Discourse and Conceptual Discourse. Since the focus of this study was on how language was used to advance students' conceptual understanding of mathematics, this type of talk became a focus of further analysis. Ten categories of students' mathematical reasoning emerged from the data.

This study provides a rich description of a reform-based mathematics classroom environment, and the quantity and quality of student talk impacted by it. Implications for educational leadership, literacy education, mathematics education, and teacher education, as well as recommendations for future studies, are shared.

Year of Submission


Year of Award

2013 Award

Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Educational Leadership and Postsecondary Education

First Advisor

Lynn Nielsen, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (xvii, 364 pages)



File Format