Language and Literacy Work in a High Stakes College Mathematics Course




Lynton, Vicki Joan

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Work in mathematics education at the postsecondary level focuses on student characteristics to explain the low persistence rates of linguistically diverse students taking mathematics classes. However, we know that a reason for low persistence is attributed to the challenges under-represented students face in gatekeeper courses. Yet, research in mathematics classrooms at the postsecondary level is limited. In this ethnographic case study, conducted at a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) located in Texas, I focus primarily on understanding the mathematics classroom context and the affordances created by language and literacy work in the classroom. My goal was to better understand how the types of classroom participation structures and the language and literacy available in the classroom allowed linguistically diverse students opportunities to develop mathematical literacy. Drawing from the NRC's math proficiency framework, findings from this study suggest that the classroom discourse centered the teacher, emphasized engagement in procedural fluency, and promoted learning as an individual and mental process. Whereas, when traditional classroom participation structures varied from a teacher-centered model, opportunities for students to amplify their language and literacy work as meaning-making resources increased. That is, findings also show there were instances where students amplified their linguistic resources and engaged in mathematical discursive practices, as was the case when a student called into action her linguistic resources as she engaged in adaptive reasoning. Sociocultural theoretical perspectives of teaching and learning applied to postsecondary learning contexts as well as critical literacy guided my interpretation of the data.


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Classroom discourse, Postsecondary education, Gatekeeper courses, mathematics education



Bicultural-Bilingual Studies