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Interactive whiteboards in mathematics classroom: improving interaction between students and teachers

This PhD research aimed at exploring, elaborating and validating the affordances of IWB as a mediator in classroom interactions in the domain of mathematics education. The introduction of the IWB in the classrooms challenges teachers’ routine and requires the development of new teaching practices. Major challenges supported by the IWB include stimulating students in exploring mathematics topics by mathematical software, promoting student-centred learning and fostering classroom dialogue between teacher and students and between students themselves. The visualization and manipulation affordances of the IWBs favour its use as an instrument of multiple mathematical representation and elaboration in view of encouraging students’ participation. Often, the IWB potentialities are not fully exploited and teachers fail in exploiting these affordances, restricting the IWB usage to a presentation tool. To better understand the teachers’ difficulties and challenges when designing and enacting IWB lessons, an in-depth analysis can favour the development of a specific pedagogy associated with IWBs use. The intention of the PhD research project was to come up with practically useful guidelines, empirically tested and theoretically grounded, for maximizing the quality of the lessons. These guidelines could benefit teachers in sustaining their practice for a more aware and more extended IWB application in their classroom activities. The claim was that IWBs have the potentialities to improve teaching, supporting relevant mathematical tasks and a sustained interactivity between teachers and students, contextualizing productive dialogue and improving students’ engaged learning.


The research project, started in 2010, involved small groups of Italian mathematics teachers in secondary schools, who volunteered to participate. Through means of a literature review, the salient IWB advantages and aspects of their effectiveness in mathematics were identified. IWB affordances appear to be best used when mathematical tasks engage students in mathematical reasoning and when all students are involved in the discussion. Three empirical studies were set up in which teachers designed and enacted mathematical lessons making use of IWB. To analyse these lessons, two distinct frameworks were employed, one more analytical and one more ‘holistic’. The analytical framework, used in the two first studies, allows for a systematic evaluation of the main components of the didactical activities, and helps to carry out amendments and improvements. The framework helped to reveal the major features of two patterns for effective IWB use in mathematics: the problem solving and the organizer pattern. Nevertheless, this framework also had clearly revealed restrictions as it analysed the three major dimensions (tasks, interaction, IWB use) separately. Therefore, in the last study another more ‘holistic’ framework was adopted that does more justice to the interconnectedness of these various dimensions. The holistic framework offered a more general view of the teacher’s and students’ interaction and of the exploitation of IWB affordances.


The results of this studies showed that the IWB can assume the role of an instrument that promotes active forms of mathematical thinking in the classroom. These active forms of mathematical thinking are centred on i) engaging students in processes of mathematical thinking, reasoning about core mathematical concepts, building new mathematical knowledge through problem-solving, making and investigating mathematical conjectures, and on ii) classroom discourse in which students coproduce mathematical reasoning and reflect on important mathematical concepts. A systematic combination of the two previous elements with the IWB affordances offers new potential schemes that combine great versatility with deep conceptualisation. The distinctive affordances of the IWB may promote and support the development of qualitatively different mathematical actions and activities.

Date:1 Sep 2010 →  21 Mar 2019
Keywords:Interactive Whiteboards, Mathematics Education, Learning Environments, Teaching/learning Strategies
Disciplines:Education curriculum, Education systems, General pedagogical and educational sciences, Specialist studies in education, Other pedagogical and educational sciences
Project type:PhD project