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Documenting the Emergence of "Speaking With Meaning" as a Sociomathematical Norm in Professional Learning Community Discourse


We introduce the sociomathematical norm of speaking with meaning and describe its emergence in a professional learning community (PLC) of secondary mathematics and science teachers. We use speaking with meaning to reference specific attributes of individual communication that have been revealed to improve the quality of discourse among individuals engaged in discourse in a PLC. An individual who is speaking with meaning provides conceptually based descriptions when communicating with others about solution approaches. The quantities and relationships between quantities in the problem context are described rather than only stating procedures or numerical calculations used to obtain an answer to a problem. Solution approaches are justified with logical and coherent arguments that have a conceptual rather than procedural basis. The data for this research was collected during a year-long study that investigated a PLC whose members were secondary mathematics and science teachers. Analysis of the data revealed that after one semester of participating in a PLC where speaking with meaning was emphasized, the PLC members began to establish their own criteria for an acceptable mathematical argument and what constituted speaking with meaning. The group also emerged with common expectations that answers be accompanied by explanations and mathematical operations be explained conceptually (not just procedurally). The course and PLC design that supported the emergence of speaking with meaning by individuals participating in a PLC are described.