Date of Graduation

Spring 2021


Master of Science in Education in Secondary Education in Mathematics



Committee Chair

Patrick Sullivan


This study examined the implementation of an instructional scaffolding teaching strategy in the secondary mathematics classroom. An iterative process was used to implement an initial design of instructional scaffolding, reflect on its efficacy, and adjust the design as needed. The goal was to assist students in learning to write responses of high epistemic complexity, which is an indicator of the degree of conceptual understanding. A total of 94 responses written by 35 students in two high school Algebra 2 courses were analyzed for epistemic complexity. Across three iterations of the implementation of instructional scaffolding, students wrote at the highest levels of epistemic complexity in 81.91% of the responses that were collected. These results provided evidence that instructional scaffolding is a viable teaching strategy that mathematics educators can employ to help students learn to write epistemically complex explanations of mathematics. Furthermore, two types of challenges are discussed that were encountered while implementing instructional scaffolding: a) challenges related to the instructional scaffolding process; and b) challenges related to coding responses while applying a coding framework designed to measure epistemic complexity.


Instructional scaffolding, epistemic complexity, writing in secondary mathematics, conceptual understanding of mathematics, secondary mathematics education

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Educational Methods | Language and Literacy Education | Science and Mathematics Education | Secondary Education | Secondary Education and Teaching


© Camry J. Cowan

Open Access