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Mathematics Discourse in Secondary Classrooms


What is MDISC?

The Mathematics Discourse in Secondary Classrooms (MDISC) materials address a pressing need in mathematics education: the need to support all secondary students in engaging in richer, deeper mathematics discourse that positively impacts their learning of mathematics and their identities as mathematics lerners. The MDISC materials are case-based, practiced based materials built from authentic artifacts of teaching practice, such as classroom transcripts and videos, secondary mathematics tasks, and student work. These cases provide groups of participants with opportunities to grapple with important ideas about mathematics discourse and how to support rich mathematics discourse in classrooms.


Why is Mathematics Discourse Important in Secondary Classrooms?

Historically in the United States, discoruse in secondary mathematics classrooms has been limited in scope and heavily structured by teachers. The Initiate-Respond-Evaluate (IRE) interaction pattern is dominant in domestic and internationally-comparative studies of secondary mathematics classrooms. In this pattern, student contributions are commonly limited to short responses that provide an answer to a problem and/or describe the procedural steps they used to arrive at that answer. Students who are perceived to be good at doing mathematics in such an environment are those who produce correct answers quickly and are willing to share them publicly.

This portrait of secondary mathematics stands in sharp contrast to the guidance from teacher professional organizations over the last three decades related to student learning. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (1989, 2000, 2006, 2008), National Research Council (2001), and the National Governor’s Association (2010) have clearly emphasized that conceptual understanding a critical aspect of meaningful mathematics learning. The Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice in particular portray a view of doing mathematics as a process of collaborative reasoning and sense-making. Mathematics discourse that extends beyond IRE-style interaction patterns is necessary in classrooms to support students in learning meaningful mathematics, and coming away from their mathematical experiences with a conception of what it means to do math that extends beyond speed and accuracy.


MDISC Supports Teachers Empowering Students with Discourse

The MDISC materials position both facilitators and teachers as professionals who have made a commitment to teach mathematics in ways that emphasize conceptual understanding and empower students as mathematical learners. The MDISC materials provide structured opportunities for teachers to engage with readings and materials, and to reflect on the professional development sessions and ongoing changes to teaching practice.


Making the Most of Your Time: Preparing to Facilitate MDISC

The MDISC materials include detailed support at multiple levels for facilitators as below:

1. Tasks, agendas, and timing advice to provide  structural support for the 30-40 hours worth of professional development sessions.

2. Detailed information regarding participant take-aways and advice (to suppot the implementation of specific activities informed by multiple iterations of piloting work with diverse groups and multiple facilitators); and

3. Narratives that describe the overarching concepts and how they unfold across the set of materials.

In addition, the MDISC materials provide all artifacts you need to enact the professional development (including video excerpts and classroom artifacts).