Clarifiable Ambiguity in Classroom Mathematics Discourse

Ambiguity is a natural part of communication in a mathematics classroom. In this paper, a particular subset of ambiguity is characterized as clarifiable. Clarifiable ambiguity in classroom mathematics discourse is common, frequently goes unaddressed, and unnecessarily hinders in-the-moment communication because it likely could be made more clear in a relatively straightforward way if it were attended to. We argue for deliberate attention to clarifiable ambiguity as a critical aspect of attending to meaning and as a necessary precursor to productive use of student mathematical thinking. We illustrate clarifiable ambiguity that occurs in mathematics classrooms and consider ramifications of not addressing it. We conclude the paper with a discussion about addressing clarifiable ambiguity through seeking focused clarification.