Learning in spaces of tension: Reflecting on my mathematics pedagogy




Grubb, Margaret A.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The purpose of this autoethnographic study was to (re)think my conceptions of teaching and learning mathematics. Using van Manen’s (1991) cycle of reflection, Jardine, Friesen, & Clifford’s notions of abundance (2006b), and Aoki’s (2005 [1993]) notions of “decentering the center”, I explored teaching vignettes that pointed to four sites of tension within my lived experiences as a mathematics educator: (a) instrumental vs. relational knowledge; (b) linear vs. recursive relationships between concrete and abstract mathematical experiences; (c) fixing mistakes vs. justification of mathematical thinking; and (d) problem solving vs. problem posing. The three common themes that arose were identified as: (a) my desire to enhance my understanding of mathematics; (b) the importance of occasioning time for students to interact in the mathematics classroom; and (c) my obsession with teaching to the test. I brought each site of tension and theme into conversation, drawing on relevant literature within curriculum studies and mathematics education. During the reflective process, not only did I experience a transformation in my conceptions of teaching and learning mathematics, but also in many fundamental ways my entire being was transformed.



Mathematics Education, Conceptual Understanding, Reflection, Interconnections/Relationships, Autoethnography