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Explicit Versus Implicit Questioning: Inviting All Children to Think Mathematically


by Amy Noelle Parks — 2010

Background/Context: Open-ended, or implicit, questioning has been described as central to reform teaching in mathematics. However, concerns about equity have caused some researchers to question whether this kind of teaching is productive for all children.

Purpose: This study explores the role that implicit and explicit questions played in encouraging mathematical thinking in an elementary mathematics class taught by a reform-oriented teacher.

Setting: The study took place in a third-grade classroom located in a small urban school.

Participants: Participants in the study were a European American teacher, a student teacher, and 19 third-grade students in an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse classroom.

Research Design: The study drew on ethnographic interpretive methods to collect data through a yearlong observation of 5 focal students in the third-grade classroom. Conversations during mathematics class were audio-recorded and transcribed. Data also included written field notes, student work, informal interviews with children, and formal interviews with the teacher. Analysis began with open coding of the transcripts and field notes and proceeded to more fine-grained coding and examination of other data.

Data Collection and Analysis: Analysis showed that implicit questions seemed to privilege some children, particularly those who shared the language and cultural practices of the teacher, whereas explicit questions allowed a wider variety of children to participate competently in the mathematics classroom.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 7, 2010, p. 1871-1896
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15919, Date Accessed: 5/29/2017 4:54:22 PM

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About the Author
  • Amy Parks
    University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    AMY NOELLE PARKS is an assistant professor in the Department of Elementary and Social Studies Education at the University of Georgia. Her research interests include mathematics education in early childhood contexts, discourses around equity, and the cultural contexts of schooling. Her recent work includes “Messy learning: Preservice Teachers’ Lesson Study Conversations About Children and Mathematics” in Teaching and Teacher Education, 2008.
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