Where form and substance meet: using the narrative approach of re-storying to generate research findings and community rapprochement in (university) mathematics education

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Storytelling is an engaging way through which lived experience can be shared and reflected upon, and a tool through which difference, diversity—and even conflict—can be acknowledged and elaborated upon. Narrative approaches to research bring the richness and vibrancy of storytelling into how data is collected and interpretations of it shared. In this paper, I demonstrate the potency of the narrative approach of re-storying for a certain type of university mathematics education research (non-deficit, non-prescriptive, context-specific, example-centred and mathematically focused) conducted at the interface of two communities: mathematics education and mathematics. I do so through reference to Amongst Mathematicians (Nardi, 2008), a study carried out in collaboration with 20 university mathematicians from six UK mathematics departments. The study deployed re-storying to present data and analyses in the form of a dialogue between two fictional, yet entirely data-grounded, characters—M, mathematician, and RME, researcher in mathematics education. In the dialogues, the typically conflicting epistemologies—and mutual perceptions of such epistemologies—of the two communities come to the fore as do the feasibility-of, benefits-from, obstacles-in and conditions-for collaboration between these communities. First, I outline the use of narrative approaches in mathematics education research. Then, I introduce the study and its use of re-storying, illustrating this with an example: the construction of a dialogue from interview data in which the participating mathematicians discuss the potentialities and pitfalls of visualisation in university mathematics teaching. I conclude by outlining re-storying as a vehicle for community rapprochement achieved through generating and sharing research findings—the substance of research—in forms that reflect the fundamental principles and aims that underpin this research. My conclusions resonate with sociocultural constructs that view mathematics teacher education as contemporary praxis and the aforementioned inter-community discussion as taking place within a third space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-377
Number of pages17
JournalEducational Studies in Mathematics
Issue number3
Early online date24 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • Narrative inquiry
  • Re-storying
  • Dialogic format
  • Mathematicians
  • University mathematics

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