EECERA – symposium session

We have just finished the first symposium session at the EECERA conference in Stavanger, and I attended a session with focus on mathematics and natural science. All three presentations focused on mathematics, so I guess they could have taken away the last part of the title.

Elizabeth Dunphy from St. Patrick’s College in Ireland did an excellent job to chair the session, and since I took part in one of the presentations myself, I can say that on behalf of the presenters as well as the audience.

The first presenter, Oliver Thiel from Germany, had an interesting presentation about a research project concerning teachers’ attitudes towards mathematics in early childhood. He had used interviews with children, based on already developed questionaires and scales. One part, for instance, was related to mathematical beliefs, and he had taken some scales developed by Grigutsch, Raatz and Törner as a starting point. Here is the abstract of Oliver’s paper:

Over the past few years the nursery school in Germany is increasingly perceived as an educational establishment instead of a child care centre. This can be seen in establishing curricula for young children, including mathematics as a domain of learning skills. In the past mathematics has not been part of the curriculum for training young children’s teachers. Therefore it is not clear, what actually their understanding is concerning mathematics. Van Oers (2004) has proven that teachers would support the mathematical development of the children only on the basis of their mathematical epistemology. The study reported here investigated teachers’ attitudes towards mathematics. The questions risen are:

  • Do nursery school teachers feel open or reluctant towards mathematics?
  • Is mathematics seen as an abstract system of terms, rules and formulas?
  • Or do the teachers see mathematics reflected in the collection and sequencing of experiences and in problem solving?
  • And what activities are expected to further the development of the child’s mathematical ideas?

A questionnaire has been developed, which included four scales, suggested by Grigutsch, Raatz and Toerner (1998). This form has been filled in by 100 teachers in Germany. For the evaluation of the questionnaires confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modeling were used.
The most important result of this survey is that the teachers show an ambivalent behavior towards mathematics, but in general they underline the benefit for the daily living. Concerning the activities of children, only those are seen as mathematical experiences, which include numbers and shapes.

The second presentation was held by Janne Fauskanger and myself. You can see our presentation below:

Here is our abstract:

In 2006, Norwegian schools and kindergartens were faced with new curriculum reforms. For the first time in Norway the curriculum for kindergartens has a chapter on mathematics. As these reforms are now being put into action, teachers, schools, kindergartens and local governments are asking for in-service education. Evaluation of the previous curriculum reform in compulsory school indicates that there has been little change in the way teachers teach. Our aim is to investigate and try to identify features of ‘the best’ in-service education. A natural point of departure for such a project is to analyse teachers’ knowledge (MKT;mathematical knowledge for teaching) and beliefs to be able to adjust the in-service education to the participants’ needs. Our project is therefore divided into two parts. In the first part, we are researching teachers’ knowledge and beliefs, and in the second part we plan on using this knowledge to design a working model for in-service education. This presentation will focus on the research regarding teachers’ knowledge, and we would like the discussion to focus on pre-school teachers’ knowledge. The first step in our project will be to participate in the translation, adjustment and use of an American measuring system developed at the University of Michigan. It is important to know more about teachers’ knowledge when planning and evaluating in-service education and the measures would allow professional developers to measure teacher learning rather than just teachers’ level of satisfaction with professional workshops and in-service mathematics education can be improved. What about pre-school teachers’ knowledge?

The third and last presenter was Marc Wantz from Luxembourg, who talked about “Gender differences in mathematical competencies”. Here is the abstract of his paper:

In the present paper we use theories from research on the structure of cognitive abilities to conceive a comprehensive measurement conception of mathematical competencies. Specifically, our measurement conception allows disentangling specific arithmetical knowledge as well as the analysis of gender differences in these competencies. Data were obtained from 151 children who participated in a longitudinal study spanning the age range from kindergarten (5 years olds) to second grade (8 years olds). Our results revealed that gender differences in the competencies under investigation were not distinct concerning their static aspects as well as their developmental dynamics.

His entire presentation can be found on this link.

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