Relational Equity and Mathematics Learning: Mutual Construction During Collaborative Problem Solving

José F. Gutiérrez, Sarah A. Brown, Martha W. Alibali


We present an emerging interdisciplinary approach to the study of mathematics learning, which brings together strands from psychology and mathematics education. Our aim was to examine how students navigate the cognitive and social aspects of peer collaboration as they generate and adopt new strategies. We analyzed video data from a laboratory study involving pairs of elementary students working collaboratively to solve mathematical equivalence problems (e.g., 8 + 5 + 4 = 4 + ___). We adopted a qualitative micro-analytic approach that focused on multimodal action (i.e., verbal utterance, gesture, inscription production, body positioning, and eye gaze) to examine three cases. These cases illustrate the complex ways that students interacted in this particular context and, in some instances, attempted to teach one another. Our findings show how “relational equity” (Boaler, 2008) and mathematics knowledge were co-constructed differently in each case. We argue that a micro-analytic approach, complemented by a blending of theory from these two fields, reveals hidden aspects of the interaction that may help explain, for example, why some students generate or adopt correct strategies and others do not. As such, this interdisciplinary approach offers a rich account of the learning processes that occur in peer collaboration.


cognition; mathematics learning; mathematical equivalence; equal sign; relational equity; interaction analysis

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Copyright (c) 2018 Gutiérrez; Brown; Alibali