Using history of mathematics

Charalambos Y. Charalambous, Areti Panaoura and George Philippou have written an article called Using the history of mathematics to induce changes in preservice teachers’ beliefs and attitudes: insights from evaluating a teacher education program. The article was published online in Educational Studies in Mathematics on Tuesday. Here is the abstract of their article:

Scholars and teacher educators alike agree that teachers’ beliefs and attitudes toward mathematics are key informants of teachers’ instructional approaches. Therefore, it has become clear that, in addition to enriching preservice teachers’ (PSTs) knowledge, teacher education programs should also create opportunities for prospective teachers to develop productive beliefs and attitudes toward teaching and learning mathematics. This study explored the effectiveness of a mathematics preparatory program based on the history of mathematics that aimed at enhancing PSTs’ epistemological and efficacy beliefs and their attitudes toward mathematics. Using data from a questionnaire administered four times, the study traced the development of 94 PSTs’ beliefs and attitudes over a period of 2 years. The analysis of these data showed changes in certain dimensions of the PSTs’ beliefs and attitudes; however, other dimensions were found to change in the opposite direction to that expected. Differences were also found in the development of the PSTs’ beliefs and attitudes according to their mathematical background. The data yielded from semi-structured follow-up interviews conducted with a convenience sample of PSTs largely corroborated the quantitative data and helped explain some of these changes. We discuss the effectiveness of the program considered herein and draw implications for the design of teacher education programs grounded in the history of mathematics.

The professional education of mathematics teachers

Springer has recently published a new book on mathematics education. The book is entitled The Professional Education and Development of Teachers of Mathematics, and it is edited by Ruhama Even and Deborah Loewenberg Ball. Here are some of the highlights of the book, as presented by the publisher:

  • Focuses specifically on mathematics teacher education development
  • Provides practical strategies for learning
  • Addresses the balance between pedagogy and mathematical content
  • Edited by the world’s leading scholars on mathematics teacher education, teacher knowledge, and teacher education

IEJME, October issue revisited

I have written about the October issue of International Electronic Journal of Mathematics Education in an earlier post. For some reason, the full-text version of the articles in this journal don’t appear as a new issue of the journal appears – at least for me they don’t! The articles are available now however, and you can freely download them in PDF format. This provides a nice occasion of referring to the articles again, and writing more about one of them:

In this collection, I found the article by Chamberlin, Powers and Novak particularly interesting, so I will provide you with some more details about it. The study reported in this article is related to the No Child Left Behind initiative in the U.S. In relation to this initiative, several professional development courses in the U.S. are required to assess the teachers’ content knowledge. This article reports on the evaluation of the impact of these assessments. Although the article does not provide a very thorough theoretical background, it gives a good overview of the survey that were made to investigate the teachers’ perceptions about these assessments.

One of the results of this survey was that the teachers appeared to learn more because of the assessments. They explain it like this:

We surmise that these positive effects may be due to an important aspect of theassessment process in these PD courses – the assessment and learning of mathematical topics and material was on-going and demonstrating mastery of those ideas was expected.

Many teachers appear to be reluctant to be tested, and this study apparently describes a study which had positive experiences with assessing the teachers after a course, and this might be interesting for other teacher educators or providers of in-service courses to take a closer look at.

Elementary prospective teachers’ mathematical beliefs

Susan L. Swars, Stephanie Z. Smith, Marvin E. Smith and Lynn C. Hart have written an article called A longitudinal study of effects of a developmental teacher preparation program on elementary prospective teachers’ mathematics beliefs. The article was published online in Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education on Thursday. Here is the abstract of their article:

The universal emphasis in mathematics education on teaching and learning for understanding can require substantial paradigmatic shifts for many elementary school teachers. Consequently, a pressing goal of teacher preparation programs should be the facilitation of these changes during program experiences. This longitudinal, mixed methods study presents a thorough investigation of the effects of a distinctive teacher preparation program on important constructs related to prospective teacher preparedness to teach mathematics for understanding, including mathematics pedagogical and teaching efficacy beliefs, mathematics anxiety, and specialized content knowledge for teaching mathematics. The results indicate that the programmatic features experienced by the prospective teachers in this study, including a developmental two-course mathematics methods sequence and coordinated developmental field placements, provided a context supporting teacher change. These shifts are interpreted through the nature and timing of the experiences in the program and a model of teacher change processes. The findings provide insights for mathematics educators as to the outcomes of these programmatic features.

Activating mathematical competencies

César Sáenz from the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain, has written an article called The role of contextual, conceptual and procedural knowledge in activating mathematical competencies (PISA). This article describes and analyzes the difficulties that Spanish student teachers had when attempting to solve the released items from PISA 2003. The student teachers (n=140) were first-year students, and they had not taken any mathematics courses in their teacher training at the time of the study. They didn’t have any experience with the PISA tests, and they had no more than secondary-level mathematics studies before they started their teacher education. The test they took was made from a collection of 39 released items from PISA 2003.

The article was published in Educational Studies in Mathematics on Sunday. Here is the article abstract:

This paper analyses the difficulties which Spanish student teachers have in solving the PISA 2003 released items. It studies the role played by the type and organisation of mathematical knowledge in the activation of competencies identified by PISA with particular attention to the function of contextual knowledge. The results of the research lead us to conclude that the assessment of the participant’s mathematical competencies must include an assessment of the extent to which they have school mathematical knowledge (contextual, conceptual and procedural) that can be productively applied to problem situations. In this way, the school knowledge variable becomes a variable associated with the PISA competence variable.

Prospective elementary teachers’ motivation

Amanda Jansen has written an article entitled Prospective elementary teachers’ motivation to participate in whole-class discussions during mathematics content courses for teachers. This article was published on Sunday in Educational Studies in Mathematics. Here is the abstract of her article:

Prospective elementary teachers’ (N = 148) motivation to participate in whole-class discussions during mathematics content courses for teachers, as expressed in their own words on an open-ended questionnaire, were studied. Results indicated that prospective teachers were motivated by positive utility values for participating (to achieve a short-term goal of learning mathematics or a long-term goal of becoming a teacher), to demonstrate competence (to achieve performance-approach goals), or to help others (to achieve social goals). Negative utility values for participating were expressed by those who preferred to learn through actively listening. Five motivational profiles, as composed of interactions among motivational values, beliefs, goals and self-reported participation practices, were prevalent in this sample. Self-reported variations among participants’ utility values and participation practices suggested that prospective teachers engaged differentially in opportunities to learn to communicate mathematically. Results provide pedagogical learner knowledge for mathematics teacher educators.

ZDM, No 5, 2008

For some reason, ZDM has published two December issues this year. I have already covered one of them, which is actually No 6, but I have not covered No 5 (both are December issues). ZDM, No 5 has a focus on Empirical Research on Mathematics Teachers and their Education, and it is a very interesting issue (for me at least), with 14 articles:

So, if you (like me) you are interested in research related to mathematics teachers and/or mathematics teacher education, this would certainly be an issue to take a closer look at!

A large part of the articles in this issue are related to the international comparative study: “Mathematics Teaching in the 21st Century (MT21)”. This study, according to the editorial, is the first study that has a focus on “how teachers are trained and how they perform at the end of their education”.

Diagnostic competentces of future teachers

Björn Schwarz, Björn Wissmach and Gabriele Kaiser have written an article entitled “Last curves not quite correct”: diagnostic competences of future teachers with regard to modelling and graphical representations. The article was published online in ZDM last week. Here is the abstract of their article:

The article describes the results of a national enrichment to the six-country study Mathematics Teaching in the 21st century (MT21)—an international comparative study about the efficiency of teacher education. The enrichment focuses on the diagnostic competence of future mathematics teachers as sub-component of teachers’ professional competence for which the evaluation of students’ solutions of a modelling task about the course of a racetrack is demanded. In connection with two sub-facets of the diagnostic competence, namely the competence to recognise students’ misconceptions and the competence of criteria-guided assessment of students’ solutions, typical answer patterns are distinguished as well as the frequency of their occurrence with regard to future teachers’ phase of teacher education and the level of school teaching they are going to teach in.

Future teachers’ professional knowledge on argumentation and proof

Björn Schwarz, Issic K.C. Leung, Nils Buchholtz, Gabriele Kaiser, Gloria Stillman, Jill Brown and Colleen Vale have written an article about Future teachers’ professional knowledge on argumentation and proof: a case study from universities in three countries, which was also published online in ZDM last week. It appears that a forthcoming issue of ZDM will have a strong focus on teacher education and teachers’ mathematical content knowledge!

Here is the abstract of the article:

In this paper, qualitative results of a case study about the professional knowledge in the area of argumentation and proof of future teachers from universities in three countries are described. Based on results of open questionnaires, data about the competencies these future teachers have in the areas of mathematical knowledge and knowledge of mathematics pedagogy are presented. The study shows that the majority of the future teachers at the participating universities situated in Germany, Hong Kong and Australia, were not able to execute formal proofs, requiring only lower secondary mathematical content, in an adequate and mathematically correct way. In contrast, in all samples there was evidence of at least average competencies of pedagogical content reflection about formal and pre-formal proving in mathematics teaching. However, it appears that possessing a mathematical background as mandated for teaching and having a high affinity with proving in mathematics teaching at the lower secondary level are not a sufficient preparation for teaching proof.

Content and pedagogical content knowledge in Germany and Hong Kong

Alexandra Corleis, Björn Schwarz, Gabriele Kaiser and Issic K.C. Leung have written an article called Content and pedagogical content knowledge in argumentation and proof of future teachers: a comparative case study in Germany and Hong Kong. The article was published in ZDM last week, and it provides an interesting comparison between teachers in Germany and Hong Kong. Here is the article abstract:

The results of a comparative case study on mathematical and pedagogical content knowledge in the area of argumentation and proof of future teachers in Germany and Hong Kong are reported in this article. The study forms part of a qualitatively oriented comparative study on future teachers in Australia, Germany, and Hong Kong. Six case studies based on interviews and written questionnaires are described. These case studies show the strengths of the Hong Kong future teachers in mathematical knowledge in the area of argumentation and proof, whereas the three German future teachers perform stronger in the related pedagogical content domain. Furthermore, regarding the German future teachers, it seems that the two domains of knowledge are more strongly connected to each other. The results are interpreted in the light of related research, such as the MT21 study.