The promise of ritual: A lens for understanding persistent practices in mathematics classrooms

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In this article, I propose ritual as an analytic lens for understanding the persistence of practices in contemporary mathematics classrooms. By foregrounding the cultural nature of the teaching and learning of mathematics in schools, ritual analysis can provide insight about the causes and effects of practices that persist through rounds of "reform." I begin by considering the legacy of the notion of culture in mathematics education research. I then provide examples of ritual analysis in education research and in mathematics education research. I draw on the scholarship of Quantz (2011) as I articulate a working definition of ritual for use in mathematics education research, considering how this definition may help raise and answer distinct questions apart from more familiar constructs. I list some well-known problems and dilemmas in mathematics education that may be promising domains for a ritual analysis, and I conclude by positioning ritual alongside other constructs and methods that are in use in mathematics education research today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-38
Number of pages20
JournalEducational Studies in Mathematics
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Mathematics
  • Education


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