A long-standing interest in the classroom experiences of Years 7 to 10 students has led me to focus on the experiences of under-achieving students during mathematics lessons. Rather than focus on individual students or use deficit theories to describe student learning, I have re-conceptualised classroom activity as distributed over three domains: classroom social norms, mathematical tools, and interaction. I have investigated classroom social norms in three junior secondary classrooms, with mathematics programmes considered typical of many classrooms in NZ. Each classroom’s social norms were found to be both explicit and nuanced and influenced the participation structures and practices of both whole class interaction and localised activity during mathematical tasks.
I am also interested in subject matter learning, particularly in mathematics and science. I have used a socio-cultural perspective to re-conceptualise school mathematical artefacts as cognitive mathematical tools. This has enabled me to explore the roles of cognitive tools within classroom activity. Cognitive tools afforded further resources for students, such as making available mathematical information, cues and other signifiers. In each classroom, I found that students and the teacher actively contributed mathematical resources. For the students in these lower and middle ability classes, access to mathematical resources was a significant affordance for further mathematical activity.