The roles of question/answer techniques in secondary school mathematics

Year: 1994

Author: Hall, Neil, Wright, Jan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

As part of two research projects we studied secondary school teachers in mathematics classrooms: videos were transcribed and texts analysed. The purpose of this paper is to discuss with the audience possible interpretations of sections of these transcripts, particularly a selection of question and answer interactions.

Our paper will briefly examine the literature on questioning techniques in mathematics classrooms, especially the question/answer/evaluation sequence. We will also relate our interpretations of the texts to interpersonal relationships in the classroom, to the kind of discovery learning these texts imply, and to the implications of these texts both for students' making meaning of the topic under consideration and for student construction of mathematical meanings in general.

We anticipate the discussion will focus on the extent to which "guess what's in my head" questions are used in mathematics classrooms, and what this suggests concerning values and beliefs about mathematics teaching and learning. These questions inevitably raise issues about knowledge transmission and construction, about interpersonal relationships in the classroom, and about power and control through language. For example, some of these texts seem to suggest that learners studying a topic for the first time already have this mathematical knowledge in their heads, and that questioning is primarily concerned with extracting it.