Original Research

Talk that supports learners’ folding back for growth in understanding geometry

Kabelo Chuene, Koena Mabotja, Satsope Maoto
Pythagoras | Vol 44, No 1 | a711 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v44i1.711 | © 2023 Kabelo Chuene, Koena Mabotja, Satsope Maoto | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 August 2022 | Published: 30 November 2023

About the author(s)

Kabelo Chuene, Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, Faculty of Humanities, University of Limpopo, Polokwane, South Africa
Koena Mabotja, Department Natural Sciences Teaching, Mathematics Education, Faculty of Humanities, Sol Plaatje University, Kimberley, South Africa
Satsope Maoto, Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, Faculty of Humanities, University of Limpopo, Polokwane, South Africa


In this article, we argue that folding back is successful when the learners engage in exploratory talk. To support our argument, we sourced data from a Grade 10 mathematics classroom of 54 learners who participated in a four-week teaching experiment conducted by the second author. We mainly focused on talks in two groups of learners to address the silence of literature on folding back that alludes to the kind of talk that learners engage in. Data were captured through video recording of learners’ interactions as they worked on the tasks in different sessions. We present these data as transcribed extracts of talks that the learners held and synthesise them into stories through Polkinghorne’s narrative mode of data analysis, also using a process that Kim referred to as narrative smoothing. Pirie and Kieren’s conception of folding back and Wegerif and Mercer’s three ways of talking and thinking among learners were used as a heuristic device for synthesising the stories. The narratives illustrate that exploratory talk promotes folding back, where learners build on each other’s ideas to develop geometry understanding. Therefore, the significance of this article is that for classrooms that wish to promote growth in understanding through folding back, the type of talk that should be normative is exploratory talk.

Contribution: Our search of the literature databases has yet to reveal an empirical study that draws attention to exploratory talk’s role in developing learners’ understanding of geometry in South Africa. However, this study is one of those that allude to the support of exploratory talk on folding back in developing geometry understanding. Our findings imply that mathematics classrooms should consider incorporating exploratory talk as part of teaching and learning geometry. Furthermore, studies on engendering exploratory talk in teaching mathematics are recommended.


folding back, dynamical theory of the growth of mathematical understanding, dialogical framework for researching peer talk, geometry understanding


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