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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Math on the Move : A Video-Based Study of School Field Trips to a Mathematics Exhibition

  • Author(s): Kelton, Molly Louise
  • et al.

This dissertation study investigates late-elementary and early-middle school field trips to a mathematics exhibition called Math Moves!. Developed by and currently installed at four science museums across the United States, Math Moves! is a suite of interactive technologies designed to engage visitors in open-ended explorations of ratio and proportion. Math Moves! exhibits emphasize embodied interaction and movement, through kinesthetic, multi-sensory, multi-party, and whole-body immersive experiences. Many science museums and other informal- learning institutions offer exhibits and public programs devoted to a wide variety of mathematics topics. These museum-based mathematics learning environments can represent a counterpoint to school mathematics classrooms, yet they also serve school audiences, through school outreach programs, museum-based professional development for teachers, and school field trips. This project addresses the relationship between school- and museum- based mathematics learning through a video-based field study of school excursions to Math Moves!. The study addresses the overarching questions of how, in the context of these excursions, teachers and students engaged with Math Moves! exhibits, as well as how they imagined and remembered the exhibits in the classroom. Data include naturalistic video recordings of pre-algebra students and their teachers both in the museum as well as during surrounding classroom preparation and follow-up activities. Informed by contemporary theories of embodied cognition, communication, and experience, an interplay of thematic and micro-interactional analyses trace how teachers and students engaged with, imagined, and remembered Math Moves! exhibits through talk, gesture, and material action. Findings indicate that teachers and students engaged in a rich array of interactions that functioned to bring exhibit experiences into relation with ongoing participation in school mathematics. At the same time, the field trips created an educational context that destabilized working assumptions about the nature of mathematical thinking and learning, opening for the participants the question of what counts as mathematics

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