Mathematics classrooms: Explorations into the teaching/learning nexus

Funding year: 
2 years
Massey University
School sector
Project start date: 
January 2007
Project end date: 
January 2009
Principal investigator(s): 
Glenda Anthony
Research team members: 
Margaret Walshaw, Dr Tim Burgess, Dr Peter Rawlins, Anne Lawrence and Dr Liping Ding.
Research partners: 
Massey University College of Education, with three secondary schools

 Project Description

While research has told us much about primary school mathematics classrooms, we know less about what happens at the secondary school level. Our Teaching and Learning Research Initiative project, a video study involving three Year 9 classes, enabled us to learn more about the mathematical relationships and practices in secondary classes. To date, our analysis has focused on the communities of practices, and the various ways in which teachers organise instructional activities. What we found was that, irrespective of school decile level, years of teachers’ experience, and the proficiency level of students, teachers are highly focused on doing the best possible job for their students. Teachers work hard to enhance students’ confidence and their understanding of mathematics. They bring their knowledge and skill to the task to deal with the “heady” demands of teaching mathematics, as well as the organisational and management matters that are part and parcel of any busy classroom. 

Below we list the Findings and their implications for effective mathematics teaching that can be found in our Summary report

Findings Implications
Students greatly value a classroom that has a ‘togetherness’ environment. They believe that respect in the classroom is important and involves a two-way process. Teachers’ work should be based on an ethic of care. Teachers spend time building productive relationships and nurturing confidence. They value students’ diverse contributions.
The classroom provides a context for applying a teacher’s professional learning.   Unpacking students’ solution strategies provides teachers with opportunities to deepen their understanding about students’ mathematical thinking.    
Mathematics classes begin in different ways, with different purposes and with different effects but all provide students with space and time to work on their own. Coherency between lessons is important. Starter tasks can provide opportunities to consolidate learning or link prior learning to new learning.   
The tasks that teachers choose significantly influence students’ level of engagement, their opportunity to learn and their proficiency development. Tasks need to have a mathematical focus, have an element of challenge, and be linked to prior knowledge and experience.  
Students define ‘good’ mathematics teaching in different ways. Their definitions tend to match the social and mathematics obligations within their respective classrooms.  ‘Good’ mathematics teaching involves allowing students to take risks, to communicate effectively, to become confident learners who can make sense of mathematics.

Project Outputs



Lawrence, A. Anthony, G., & Ding, L. (2009) Teacher learning and pedagogical shifts subsequent to professional development experiences. New Zealand Journal of Teachers’ Work

Presentations, conferences and workshops

Walshaw, M., Ding, L., & Anthony, G. (2009).  Enhancing mathematical identities at the expense of mathematical proficiency? Lessons from a New Zealand classroom. Proceedings of the 33rd conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (Vol. 4, pp.).Thessaloniki: PME.

Ding, L., Anthony, G., & Walshaw, M. (2009).  A teacher’s implementation of examples in solving number problems. Proceedings of the 33rd conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (Vol. 2, pp.).Thessaloniki: PME.

Ding, L., Anthony, G., & Walshaw, M. (2009). The structure of mathematics lessons in New Zealand. 3rd International Symposium on the History and Pedagogy of Mathematics, May 2009, Beijing, China.

Anthony, G., & Walshaw, M. (2009). The learners’ perspectives: New Zealand Year 9 students’ views on ‘good’ mathematics teachers and learning mathematics. Paper presented at Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference, Singapore. June 2009.


Presentations, conferences and workshops

Brookie, A. Lawrence, A., Paterson, M., Smyth, D. (2008). A report from a TLRI project on Mathematics classrooms: Explorations into the teaching/learning nexus. Paper presented at the NZARE annual conference, Massey University, 24-27 November 2009.