Igniting and Sustaining Mathematical Proficiency: a Poststructuralist Analysis of the Pitfalls and Essentials of Classroom Practice

Year: 2010

Author: Klein, Mary

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Nationally we face a serious problem in that over the last twenty years the quality of Australian students’ mathematical knowledge and abilities has “deteriorated to a dangerous level” (Brown, 2009, p. 3). Too few students want to study further mathematics (Willoughby, 2000) or pursue careers where high levels of mathematical proficiency are needed. In this paper I make use of the poststructuralist notion that ‘proficiency’ is a state of being daily constituted in classroom practice to (a) at a theoretical level, rethink how it might be ignited and sustained, (b) analyse contemporary interactional strategies that commonly interrupt proficiency in participation and (c) nominate three (3) key indicators of instructional practice necessary for students to achieve and maintain a state of being ‘proficient’ as defined in the Australian curriculum: mathematics (ACARA, 2010). An alternative, poststructuralist reading of how the learning process impacts engagement and ultimately proficiency may interrupt taken-for-granted humanist assumptions that currently inform the teaching and learning of mathematics.