Promoting mathematical discussion : unpacking the pedagogy of an early childhood educator
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This four-month-long qualitative case study looks closely at how one kindergarten teacher tried to help young children have more mathematical discussions. To discover and more deeply understand a kindergarten teacher’s ways of thinking about and facilitating mathematical discussion as part of everyday mathematical instruction, data was collected through classroom observations, semi-structured interviews, and various forms of documentation. Through data analysis in the constant-comparative method, this study found that intensive-discussion mathematics lessons could be accomplished through two pedagogical roles of the teacher. The first was creating a respectful learning environment to motivate children’s participation in mathematical discussion. The second was scaffolding student discussions to construct their own knowledge in the path of their mathematics learning. The analysis detailed here also revealed that successes and failures of discussion-intensive mathematics lessons depend on the teacher’s ability to overcome challenges she encounters while integrating mathematical discussion into her everyday lessons. The presented examples and descriptions in this study offer significant implications for early childhood teachers. This is particularly true for those who care about their young students’ mathematical development, yet either struggle to develop trusting classroom communities or do not know how to facilitate mathematical discussion. This study also provides insights into how teacher educators can help preservice teachers develop a profound understanding of mathematics teaching and learning. This highly influences their moment-by-moment decision-making to appropriately scaffold young children’s talk and learning. It offers implications for administrators about how to support early childhood teachers’ growth, learning, and their practices in teaching mathematics.