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Written Discourse Analysis: Looking at Adolescent Mathematical Writing

By: Published: 2017 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Discourse analysis usually focuses on oral discourse, what people say within a classroom setting. The goal of this study was to show that methodologies that would normally be used in English/language arts classes could also be used in mathematics classes. In this case study, the basic methods of discourse analysis are used to examine adolescents’ writing from their mathematics classes. Mathematical writing samples were collected in three separate studies at three schools with different demographics. All of the writing samples were analyzed for the students’ use of mathematical writing elements: symbols, nominalizations, and images. Analysis showed that the use of the elements was dependent on the students’ mathematical abilities and the writing exercise. Before any analysis can take place, researchers need to first determine what elements they want to identify. Once those elements have been identified, researchers can go through the analysis process. Many nascent researchers feel the need to identify and analyze everything that is presented in the data. This need to cover everything only causes confusion and frustration.

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