Transforming mathematics classroom practice through participatory action research

Pete Wright (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)


This paper explores the potential of participatory action research to bring about significant changes in practice in a context in which more conventional approaches to research have had limited impact. It focuses on secondary mathematics classrooms where teaching approaches characterised by memorising and practising mathematical procedures, with little understanding of their application, purpose or underlying concepts, remain commonplace in many countries around the world and have proved highly resistant to change. The paper highlights the damage caused by such practices in terms of the alienation of large numbers of students and the inequitable outcomes they are associated with, including the strong correlation that persists between students’ socio-economic status and mathematical attainment. It reports on the case of one participatory action research project, involving the author and five teacher researchers, that demonstrated how a vision of mathematics education, involving a genuinely engaging and empowering curriculum, can be translated into classroom practice. The paper considers the extent to which this research project was conducted in a collaborative, systematic and rigorous way. It reflects on the research processes that facilitated critical reflection, enabled the teacher researchers to overcome constraints and generated trustworthy findings. The insights gained from this analysis are used to argue that a participatory action research methodology, which resonates with a critical mathematics pedagogy, has the potential to challenge prevailing discourses in mathematics education and hence lead to genuine transformations in classroom practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-177
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Mathematics Teacher Education
Issue number2
Early online date16 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Critical mathematics education
  • Empowerment
  • Equity
  • Participatory action research
  • Social justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Mathematics


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