Ambiguity in the mathematics classroom

RA Barwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Mathematics is commonly seen as a discipline with no place for linguistic ambiguity. In this paper, the treatment of ambiguity in two data extracts is critically examined. Analysis draws on two contrasting models of the nature of mathematics and mathematical language. The formal model sees meaning as fixed and relating to language relatively unproblematically. The discursive model sees meaning as situated in and by interaction, and so as shifting and changing as interaction unfolds. Analysis of the extract from the National Numeracy Strategy suggests that it is based on the formal model. This analysis is contrasted with analysis of classroom interaction which reveals how, from a discursive perspective, ambiguity can be seen as a resource for doing mathematics and for learning the language of mathematics.
Translated title of the contributionAmbiguity in the mathematics classroom
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117 - 125
Number of pages9
JournalLanguage and Education
Volume19 (2)
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Multilingual Matters & Channel View Publications
Other: No DOI


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