Best Paper Award 2023

For more on Alexandra's work:

"Categorizing Math Problems as ‘Easy’ and ‘Difficult’ – An Elementary School Mathematics Teacher’s Interaction with a Newly Arrived Student Analyzed in Two Steps"

Language is discussed more and more as a key factor in learning, especially in (European) countries with growing numbers of students whose first language is not the language of instruction. When investigating the relevance of language in mathematics classroom interaction, we need to consider two research disciplines: research on mathematics education attempts to determine linguistic demands of learning mathematics and to develop teaching concepts that offer students linguistic support. Research on education in the context of multilingualism emphasizes the power relations at play in the education system and the need to investigate classroom interaction between teachers and students.

This paper is part of the broader research interest to investigate what relevance language unfolds in mathematics classroom interaction and whether linguistically diverse students receive different opportunities for learning mathematics. Therefore, it seems necessary, to take into account mathematical, linguistic and organizational practices and follow a situational definition of practices. Implementing this aspiration in the analysis of classroom observations, however, turned out to be not straightforward. Thus, this paper discusses the analytical distinction of linguistic and organizational aspects from mathematical aspects of classroom practices in one analytical step each. To spotlight opportunities for learning mathematics, the second step focusing on mathematical practices especially analyzes their orientation toward conceptual or procedural knowledge.

This paper presents one classroom interaction in primary school mathematics that was observed ethnographically. The sequence describes an interaction between a primary school mathematics teacher and a newly arrived student during a phase of individual work. The exemplified analysis shows that focusing on linguistic and organizational aspects indicates that the task of categorizing problems as ‘easy’ and ‘difficult’ comes with several obstacles, but the teacher only addresses problems of linguistic understanding. The focus on mathematical aspects showed that the task is oriented toward conceptual knowledge, but the addition of a manipulative during the interaction leads to a shift toward procedural knowledge. The two analytical steps thus produce distinct results that are useful when investigating the reproduction of differences between linguistically diverse students and therefore will be applied in further analyses.

Alexandra said of her Best Paper experience:
"Participating in ERC’s Best Paper Award has been an enriching and rewarding experience. It was my first time writing a research paper and setting it up for competition was very exciting. During the process I received feedback and advice several times: at ERC 2023 from my peers at my presentation and at the article writing workshop, as well as from the BPA reviewers after submission. All of this feedback was very helpful for me to improve upon my paper, but also to learn about writing research articles in general. Winning the award means to me that my work is of relevance and quality, for which I feel so grateful and honored!
I would like to thank my advisors Elli Rathgeb-Schnierer and Friederike Heinzel for their advice on my research, as well as Annie Adler and my brother, Tristan Dannenberg, for proofreading my writing in English."

  • Alexandra Dannenberg is currently a research assistant and PhD candidate at Kassel University, Germany, and the graduate school InterFach. She studied primary education with the subjects mathematics, German as a first language and natural & social sciences. During her studies, she discovered her interest in education research and thus began her current position in primary education research shortly after graduating. In her doctoral studies she focusses on the relevance of language in primary school mathematics classroom interactions. Her general research interests are power relations in education, educational disparities, and institutional discrimination.

Best Paper Award 2023

Submission deadline 20 Nov 2023
Formative feedback given 10 Feb 2024
Re-Submission deadline 10 March 2024
Winner announced early May 2024

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