Professional activity around mathematics teaching is considered vital in the improvement of mathematics education at all levels. Research in mathematics education has identified aspects of teacher professional development that are effective, but there has been a recent push for better understanding how mathematics teacher professional development can also be sustainable. To this end, informal professional activity around mathematics teaching has become of particular interest in the field. Since many education professionals are turning to resources that are becoming increasingly available beyond the confines of institutional boundaries, such as via social media, many of the constraints of traditional forms of professional activity are being bypassed, allowing for informal professional activity to flourish. In some cases, collectives of professionals have formed in such contexts. One such collective, referred to as the Math Twitter Blogosphere (MTBoS), has remained resilient for almost ten years with ongoing activity around mathematics teaching occurring daily. Although this self-organized, bottom-up, emergent collective thrives with engagement around mathematics teaching, it has received very little empirical attention within mathematics education. As such, this study investigates the inner workings of this collective by drawing on tenets of complexity thinking to develop a more comprehensive description of its nature and how it thrives. Informed by an ethnographic journey of becoming a MTBoS participant, I select and analyze data in innovative ways to uncover both the ideational network in MTBoS and the social network that drives its existence. Analysis of these networks illuminates the influence not only of social capital, but also of ideational capital, both of which are necessary for determining ideational resilience within the collective. The results of this research indicate not only the popular topics within MTBoS, but also more importantly, features that drive ongoing and often generative activity around mathematics teaching within this online, unprompted, unfunded and unmandated professional setting.
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Thesis advisor: Liljedahl, Peter
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