Examining discourse structures in Chinese and U.S. elementary mathematics classes

Shuai Wang, Michelle Perry, Leigh Mingle, Marc McConney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Public policy, theory, and empirical research suggest that mathematical learning is supported in U.S. elementary classrooms when students follow “horizontal” discourse patterns. In contrast, in Chinese classrooms, where students have been reported to excel in mathematics, both tradition and expectations necessitate that teachers remain in control and follow “vertical” discourse patterns. The investigation reported here examined these two patterns and an additional, hybrid pattern—teacher-facilitated horizontal discourse—in transcripts from 31 upper elementary U.S. and Chinese fractions lessons. Using a generalized linear mixed model, results indicated that although vertical discourse was the predominant pattern in both samples, horizontal discourse was more common in U.S. classrooms and teacher-facilitated horizontal discourse was more common in Chinese classrooms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101493
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Research
StatePublished - 2020


  • Classroom discourse
  • Cross-cultural comparison
  • Elementary mathematics
  • Student-teacher interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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