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Carving Curriculum out of Chaos: Exploring Teacher Interventions and the Patterning of Small Groups in Mathematics Class Open Access


Other title
Problem Posing
Small Groups
Teacher Interventions
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Banting, Nathaniel, J. A.
Supervisor and department
Simmt, Elaine (Secondary Education)
Examining committee member and department
Simmt, Elaine (Secondary Education)
Glanfield, Florence (Secondary Education)
McGarvey, Lynn (Elementary Education)
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-06:Spring 2017
Master of Education
Degree level
Small group work is becoming an increasingly popular structure for promoting communication, sense-making, and reasoning in the mathematics class. This increased sense of student autonomy must co-exist with the curriculum, the expectation to provide opportunities for students to master certain mathematical ideas. This study is an exploration into the patterns that emerge when a teacher of mathematics establishes small groups in their classroom and attempts to balance the inherent complexity of student interaction with the ultimate goal of affecting action toward curricular outcomes. The analytical framework of complexity theory and the epistemology of enactivism are used to frame the mathematics curriculum as a landscape, and the process of learning mathematics as one of emergence with the mathematical environment while operating in certain curriculum spaces. The image of the curriculum space is introduced as an interpretive tool to visualize the dynamic, drifting nature of the problem deemed relevant to a group, and their movement as they work at varying levels of sophistication with targeted outcomes. Through this lens, I offer illustrative episodes of group action and an analysis of patterns of teacher action to provide a language to observe small groups as complex systems, inform the work of teachers by presenting viable images of complex systems of learners making sense of their experience, and explore the tendencies of teacher actions when consciously balancing complexity and curriculum. My research suggests that the complex action of small groups can generate curriculum, and that a teacher of mathematics can both prompt action with curricular outcomes and honour the complexity of small groups if they attune themselves to the dynamic movement of a group’s problem drift.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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