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Preservice Mathematics Teachers’ Knowledge and Development

João Pedro da Ponte and Olive Chapman

1. Introduction
Preservice mathematics teacher education is a complex process in which many
factors interact. These factors include the kinds of knowledge, competencies, attitudes
and values that teacher candidates should acquire or develop, where learning takes place
(university, school, and other settings), and the roles, interests and characteristics of the
participants in the process (preservice teachers, university instructors, classroom
teachers/mentors, and students). They also include program options and conditions such
as pedagogical approaches, ways of working emphasized, relationship of preservice
teachers and instructors, access to resources, and use of information and communication
technology. Associated with these factors are complex relationships in terms of their
nestedness, intersections and direct and indirect links. There is also the issue of
transforming theory to practice and transforming identity from student to teacher. Other
issues include conflicts between what is considered important for preservice teachers to
learn and what they actually learn, between university and school contexts, and among
the perspectives of the different participants in the teacher education process and other
interested parties such as ministries of education, school administrators, parents, media,
and the public. Research also adds a layer of complexity in understanding teacher
education in that studies can put an emphasis on different aspects of the mathematics
curriculum as well as of preservice teachers’ learning and related learning opportunities.
These layers of complexities of the preservice teacher education’s aims,
processes and outputs offer many entry points in framing a paper on this field. However,
in keeping with the theme of this section of the handbook, we have chosen to focus on
particular aspects of preservice teachers’ knowledge and development, influenced by
dominant themes from recent research of mathematics teacher education. Our intent is
to highlight aspects of research on preservice mathematics teachers’ knowledge and
development as a way of understanding current trends in the journey to establishing
meaningful and effective preservice teacher education. We see this as a journey in the
field of mathematics education research as preservice teacher education continues to be
a major issue all around the world with the need to better understand the nature and
development of preservice teachers’ knowledge and competency and the features and
conditions of teacher education that favor or inhibit it.

These studies consider preservice teacher learning in situations other than their practice teaching. In section 5. and (iii) the development of teachers’ professional competency and identity. (ii) the preparation of teachers regarding knowledge about mathematics teaching.) 3. (. again. They also deal with how to assist the preservice teachers in developing as beginning professionals. we conclude with a section that offers a reflective summary of preservice teachers’ learning and discusses general issues about the state of research of preservice mathematics teachers’ knowledge and development. These papers cover a broad range of studies about preservice teachers’ knowledge of. Finally. we provide an overview of the theoretical frameworks and empirical research methodological features of these studies. Preservice Teachers’ Knowledge of Mathematics Teaching In order to teach mathematics. If we take knowledge to refer to a wide network of . We strived to include significant contributions from a wide range of regions and countries. These studies consider preservice teacher learning in situations involving their practice teaching and include how they reflect on their practice and on their role as teachers and how they start assuming a professional identity. paying attention to the way this knowledge is conceptualized and to its processes of development. we consider papers dealing with preservice teachers’ knowledge of mathematics. during. In section 3. and attitudes toward. These three categories emerge as possible poles to discuss current work from our survey of several journals and books to identify research studies on preservice mathematics teacher education with emphasis on the period 1998-2005.. some of which often are not considered in this kind of reviews. mathematics and knowledge of teaching mathematics. prior to. in section 2. teachers need to know not only mathematics but also about mathematics teaching.The aspects of preservice teacher education research that we highlight relate to: (i) the mathematical preparation of teachers. we consider papers related to development of a preservice teacher’s identity and competence. we consider papers dealing with preservice teachers’ knowledge of mathematics teaching. In section 4. After this introduction. We organize our discussion of these studies in four main sections. and on exiting preservice teacher education. paying special attention to the way mathematical knowledge is conceptualized by researchers as well as to the processes through which such knowledge develops.

then knowledge of mathematics and knowledge of mathematics teaching may have something in common. images. curriculum orientations and technological resources. the nature of tasks and materials to use in the classroom. The development of research in mathematics education since the 1970s made clear the need for teachers to take into account students’ thinking and learning processes. as Shulman (1986) suggested when he coined the term “pedagogical content knowledge” (PCK) to mean a special blend of mathematical and pedagogical knowledge? Shulman’s notion of PCK gave special emphasis to “the most useful forms of representation (…) the most powerful analogies. knowledge of mathematics has a referent in the academic discipline of mathematics – one of the most formalized and sophisticated fields of human thought –. illustrations. whereas knowledge of mathematics teaching is in the realm of professional knowledge – a field highly dependent of evolving social and educational conditions and values. Is it an outgrowth of the “wisdom of practice”? Is it a direct application of results of research in mathematics education? Is it something more special. usually organized under the topics of “curriculum” and “instruction”. lesson planning. Ball. In recent years. Thames. 3. the ways of representing and formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others” (1986. classroom communication. the nature and status of knowledge of mathematics teaching is a controversial matter. Associated with this notion. including beliefs and conceptions.1 Nature of Knowledge of Mathematics Teaching Knowledge of mathematics teaching has long been the focus of “mathematics methods” courses at teacher education institutions. explanations and demonstrations – in a word. However. examples. and assessment. and intelligent abilities possessed by human beings. we discuss studies related to knowledge of mathematics teaching in preservice teacher education. In this section. 9).concepts. focusing on the nature of this knowledge and on approaches used to facilitate its development in preservice mathematics teachers. However. ways of organizing students. It involves the general goals of mathematics teaching. the growth and consolidation of curriculum reform ideas in many countries has led many preservice teacher education programs to use such perspectives and materials as a major source for their organization and activity. p. and Phelps (2005) suggest a model for thinking about teacher mathematical knowledge for teaching in terms of two components: .

knowing what is to be taught and how to plan. their common conceptions and misconceptions. Middleton. Gorev. Kilpatrick et al. the mathematical skills. what they know. & Yanik. abilities. organizing one’s class to create a community of learners and in managing classroom discourse and learning activities to engage students in substantive mathematical work. and size up mathematical issues in responding to students’ novel approaches. and the likely sources of those ideas. 2002). 2002). First. 1998) and algebraic and graphical representations of functions (Sánchez & Llinares. 2000).  Knowledge of content and teaching. and assess effective lessons on that mathematical content. Kurz. Second. 2001. such as iconic and symbolic representations of fractions (Llinares & Sánchez. teacher-student interaction. working with different representations. or on forms of communication (Brendefur & Frykholm. Berenson. knowing who they are. and . 2003) and statistical investigations (Heaton & Mickelson. the unique ways of learning. Similarly. knowledge of practice. knowledge of students’ processes (Nicol & Crespo. Specific examples of what this knowledge looks like in such studies are: beliefs about the means and purposes of mathematics teaching (Cotti & Schiro. using teaching materials. 2003). and predict what students are likely to do with specific tasks and what they will find interesting or challenging. especially ICT (Bowers & Doerr. 2004. Gurevich. and dispositions that students bring to the lesson. Tirosh. conduct. the nature of tasks to present to students for functions (Sánchez & Llinares. and how they view learning. on instructional explanations (Kinach. focused on the orchestration of class discussions (Blanton. and doing mathematics that students have developed. This knowledge is associated with teachers having to sequence content for instruction. Our review of recent studies of preservice mathematics teachers suggest that there is some level of consistency between these proposed items of knowledge of mathematics teaching and on what researchers have focused. Knowledge of content and students. that is. This knowledge is associated with teachers having to anticipate student errors and common misconceptions. 2004). 2004). thinking about. & Norwood. interpret students’ incomplete thinking. 2000). recognize instructional pros and cons of difficult representations. 2001). & Barabash. 2004. (2001) suggest two categories of this knowledge. knowledge of students. that is. mathematics and themselves.

We next summarize a sample of these studies. 3. Doig & Groves. or may it also develop during university mathematics methods courses? What are the conditions regarding contexts of practice that best support its development? As we point out in Ponte and Chapman (2006). & Oliver. 2003). Shulman’s notion of PCK has helped mathematics educators to make sense of important aspects of mathematics teaching practice. several recent studies have included various aspects of teachers’ knowledge of mathematics teaching as a focus of their investigations.. especially regarding the epistemological status of such knowledge. Despite all its shortcomings. Sparov. Is it formal and declarative knowledge that may be learnt and assessed in a verbal way? Is it practical knowledge that only can be seen implicitly in teaching? Another important issue is how such knowledge develops. however.2 Preservice Teachers’ Knowledge of Mathematics Teaching As we noted above. 1998. preparing preservice teachers to fit within existing school practices is by itself rather problematic and teacher education programs have been long criticized by its poor performance.assessing students (Azcárate. motivation or passion. Does it only develop in contexts of practice. That practice. Santos. In his own view. community. These studies provide information on the nature of this knowledge prior to and/or during interventions. 2001). Zevenbergen. this notion has been the subject of serious criticisms (e. 2004. Preparing them to assume innovative curriculum practices is surely much more problematic and presents a serious challenge to mathematics educators. Fenstermacher. some already mentioned in section 2. when we considered preservice teachers knowledge of mathematics.g. 1994). & Cardeñoso. For example. Herrington. and curriculum and not only content knowledge (See Boaler. should consider issues of affect. it should have more emphasis on the level of action. Shulman’s notion of PCK is rather appealing to mathematics educators since it points to important issues of professional practice and offers the perspective of combining knowledge of content and pedagogy. should pay attention to the role of the community of teachers and not only the individual teacher. is changing and a major influence in such process is the emergence of curriculum reform movements. 2005. Some studies addressed preservice teachers’ knowledge of children’s mathematics knowledge. Tirosh (2000) conducted a study to enhance . As Lampert and Ball (1998) noted. and its starting point should include students. Herrington. However. Serradó. 2005. Shulman himself has become a critic of his model.

The findings reveal that the preservice teachers initially tended to focus on the correctness of their students’ answers. Most of them had a naive belief about teaching and learning. Finally. and responding. The findings suggest that the participants seemed to be drawn to asking questions which focused on getting students toward an answer and this seemed to be in tension with also posing questions that might elicit . The preservice teachers were good at identifying features of decimal comparisons that led to students’ errors but not good at explaining why. For example. Stacey et al. Crespo (2004). (2001) investigated preservice elementary teachers’ pedagogical knowledge focusing on understanding of decimals. After the course they discussed the attempt of students to apply the properties of whole numbers as distributing directly to rational numbers. and were more analytical of the mathematics involved in the students’ responses. Other studies addressed situations dealing with preservice teachers’ knowledge of communication and questioning. but later focused on their mathematical abilities and attitudes. Those who made errors on the test were more aware of potential student errors than the other participants. but this did not happen with the prospective teachers (only 69%). Nicol (1999) in her study of learning to teach mathematics in terms of questioning. investigated how preservice teachers interpret their students’ work. The researchers suggest that direct instruction related to students’ common ways of thinking could enhance the teachers’ PCK.prospective elementary teachers’ knowledge of children’s conceptions of division of fractions. They summarize the findings saying that most prospective teachers exhibited dull knowledge of the difficulties that children's experience with word problems involving rational numbers and their possible sources. highlights tensions prospective elementary teachers experienced in their efforts to engage students in mathematical thinking and communication. listening. using mathematics letter exchanges with school students. They showed greater attention towards the meaning of student’s mathematical thinking rather than to surface features. The findings indicate that before the course the participants mentioned only algorithmic or reading comprehension errors. The authors indicate that most inservice teachers provided correct expressions for the multiplication and division word problems (93% of correct responses). Klein and Tirosh (1997) aimed to evaluate prospective and inservice teachers’ knowledge of common difficulties that children’s experience with multiplication and division word problems involving rational numbers and their possible sources. They found that the preservice teachers had only moderate understanding of their errors as being consistent with that of the students.

and respond to their students differently as the course progressed. questioning only the incorrect response. non-specific questioning. Westbrook. listen to their students. and instructive – and used these constructs to consider two participants’ concepts of communication and their classroom practices. and competent questioning. They provided a framework of four constructs to analyze forms of classroom communication – uni-directional. these teachers have a limited capacity to carry out active sense making with their students. In their view. probing and follow-up. such as check-listing with no recognition of students’ responses. they began to pose questions of their students. However. Blanton. .student thinking. and Carter (2005) used classroom discourse to identify what two preservice teachers allowed (zone of free movement) and promoted (zone of promoted action) as a way to know their potential for development. Finally. reflective. when interviewers consistently followed up children’s answers but did so with questions that lacked specificity. They suggest that active listening to students’ thinking could help them to move toward inquiry-based forms of practice. The findings show several questioning strategies. Another focus of knowledge of mathematics teaching is linked to reform curriculum orientations as in Frykholm’s (1999) three-year study of six cohorts of 63 secondary mathematics student teachers. as preservice teachers only questioned children in this case. They found that the two teachers had quite different teaching approaches and their classrooms depicted quite different forms of communication. contributive. Brendefur and Frykholm (2000) focused on conceptions and practices of two preservice teachers regarding communication in the classroom. examining the ways in which their knowledge of the NCTM Standards contrasted with their teaching practices as beginning teachers. The authors conclude that it is important for preservice teachers to recognize that there are various types of questioning that can be used to assess and understand children’s thinking in mathematics. teaching and telling as the interviewers moved from questioning children to teaching. which demonstrates the interviewer’s greater attention to the child’s thinking. Another study by Moyer and Milewicz (2002) examined the questioning strategies used by preservice elementary teachers during one-on-one diagnostic mathematics interviews with children and also engaged them in reflecting on their own questioning. The authors claim that the teachers in some cases seemed to promote actions or events that in fact they did not allow pupils to experience and label this as an “illusionary zone”. when interviewers listened to children and used their responses to construct a specific probe to get more information about their thinking.

3. tasks. Even more demanding is learning to plan and conduct teaching according to reform curriculum orientations. Our review suggests that in contrast to knowledge of mathematics. regarding issues such as their knowledge of children’s mathematical thinking and communicating and questioning in the classroom is no easy task. these studies show that the development of preservice teachers’ knowledge of mathematics teaching beyond common sense level. teacher education should aim at “making the professional student thoughtful about his work in the light of principles. and implemented these conceptions into practice. studies on preservice teachers’ knowledge of mathematics teaching are much less represented in the research literature. background and interests. one of the challenges for teacher educators is dealing with preservice teachers who are likely to have developed their own sense of what special methods are good or bad and to use it to frame their learning in a way that stifles the thoughtful and flexible dispositions necessary to conduct meaningful classrooms. However. as students. students’ thinking. often in non-supportive environments. Jaworski .3 Approaches for Developing Knowledge of Mathematics Teaching How do we help teachers to develop meaningful knowledge of mathematics teaching? According to Dewey (1962). such instruction “was seldom evidenced in their teaching practices” (p. rather than to induce in him a recognition that certain special methods are good. For example.Most of the student teachers reported detailed knowledge of the reform movement. from the time when the four participants were preservice primary teachers in a program incorporating a reform-based mathematics methods course until the end of their second year of teaching. 88) as beginning teachers. Steele (2001) conducted a four-year longitudinal study. This may happen because this is a less developed domain and many studies may be integrated with other areas such as identity and competence that we discussed in section 4. preservice teachers not educated. The author found that only two of the four teachers sustained their cognitively based conceptions about mathematics teaching and learning. 22). recognized what reform-based instruction should look like. materials. and valued the Standards as an orientation document. While this is an aim that is conveyed in the intent of current perspectives of mathematics education. in the current reform perspective of mathematics and its teaching and learning are likely to bring a context to teacher education that limits their development of such dispositions. However. since this implies a high level of integration of knowledge of aims. and certain other special methods are bad” (p.

Reflection is a key process to create awareness of this knowledge. many studies about preservice teachers. (ii) social efficiency. This may be achieved by focusing on a single course. They indicate that when students enter initial mathematics teacher education they already have extensive knowledge about mathematics teaching and have views on the nature of mathematics. In general. But this knowledge is limited because it is based mainly on their experience as students. However. One study. the idea that preservice teachers may be taught the same way they are expect to teach later as teachers. These views suggest the importance for programs to engage preservice teachers in learning opportunities that will allow them to re-construct their knowledge and understanding of mathematics teaching. In different ways. for example. as much as possible. that is.and Gellert (2003) also discuss the issue of preservice mathematics teachers’ preconceptions. that explicitly included a focus on reflection is by Cotti and Schiro (2004) who. of reflecting on personal theories and conceptions and integrating content and pedagogy can be traced in many studies. and (iv) social reconstruction. these two ideas. without scrutiny of this previous knowledge. have shown that their knowledge about mathematics teaching and learning developed before teacher education tend to resist change (Brown & Borko. concerned with foundational aspects of mathematics education. In order to lead to learning it would seem that this must be more than the ongoing observation of one’s own actions” (p. prior and during teacher education. an essential part of preservice teachers’ education is for them to become aware of their personal theories and preconceptions in order to make them explicit. is that of integrating content and pedagogy. Lampert & Ball. as Jaworski and Gellert (2003) suggest. sometimes even in different settings (university. Thus. (iii) child study. However. side by side. school). 1998). to confront. The participants included 109 preservice primary school teachers of two USA universities. A further way of integrating content and pedagogy is through the “isomorphism” principle. 1992. or in combining different kinds of experiences that run in parallel. purposeful and ambitious teacher preparation is difficult. achieving effective reflection can be problematic depending on the way it is conceptualised and carried out. clarify and extend them by subjecting them to the challenge of others or alternative theories. on content and teaching issues. then. The authors designed an instructional tool to highlight for teachers the different ways in which children’s literature may be used to teach mathematics and analyzed if it could stimulate teacher discussion and reflection. as helpful both to learning mathematics and learning how to teach mathematics. Another important idea that has been proposed for teacher education. As Lerman (1997) noted. Using a Mathematics and Children’s Literature Belief Inventory they indicate that most of the pre-service teachers (83%) . The examples of their instructional tool are related to four curriculum ideologies: (i) scholar academic. addressed teachers’ beliefs about the purposes and means of mathematics teaching. and that feed each other. 201). “Reflection on one’s own actions presumes a dialogical interaction in which a second voice observes and criticizes.

and Pence (2000). Reflection also plays an important role in these studies. the findings reported deal more with attitude of content and not knowledge of mathematics teaching. problem solving can be considered as both a mathematical process and a pedagogical process. a way of teaching mathematics. some preservice teachers said that they had improved their liking for mathematics. Similarly. preservice teachers need to deal with these in their professional preparation. Presmeg (1998) describes a graduate course on ethnomathematics for prospective and practicing mathematics teachers that have the potential of indirectly modeling the use of cultural mathematics projects in their teaching. This is an action research study aimed at improving the understanding of.identified the child study ideology as their primary position. Another way of integrating the learning of content and pedagogy and promoting reflection was through special emphasis on problem solving. For example. together with activities suitable for school students. that is. developing students’ understanding of problem solving could affect their knowledge of mathematics teaching about and through problem solving and other related issues. The teaching strategies used in the course were similar to the ones suggested for the preservice teachers’ future use in teaching children. Becker. The authors organized two courses aimed at improving . in a study by Roddick. and attitudes toward. Thus. mathematics of two cohorts of 42 and 44 primary school preservice teachers enrolled in a mathematics teaching course component of a teacher education program in Brazil. The authors argue that if knowledge about teaching mathematics is not just technical knowledge but involves value choices and moral issues. One study integrating learning of content and pedagogy was reported by Amato (2004). as these studies imply. In the reform curriculum. that is. preservice secondary teachers were provided with rich and varied problem solving experiences. Selected examples of preservice teachers’ work show that such activities had a strong meaning to them. Theory related to the teaching of mathematics and strategies for teaching the content in the primary school curriculum were discussed in the course. The instructional tool stimulated teachers’ reflection about their own beliefs and the ideological nature of educational environments. consistent with the orientation of the education faculty at both institutions. This course stresses as a key element the participants’ ownership or their individual and personally meaningful cultural mathematics projects. whereas others indicated that their attitudes towards the subject had not changed much. The participants choose personally their project and reported them orally to the class and in writing and in verbal presentation. However.

broaden their views of problem solving and of mathematics.prospective teachers’ problem solving abilities. The other group developed a more flexible view of problem solving and its teaching that reflected a learner-centered approach. Two groups of preservice elementary mathematics education majors in a teacher education program in Canada were studied. and enhance their understanding of equity issues in teaching mathematics. Another study related to problem solving was conducted is by Chapman (1998) who investigated the effect of using metaphor as a tool in facilitating preservice teachers’ understanding of problem solving and its teaching. teachers reflected first on an individual level. Ponte. Based on the participants’ written work. post-practicum year with one group of eight who took the course following an “uncued-metaphor approach” (not requiring an explicit determination of a metaphor) and the other of seven. as in the case of one participant. then on a group level. learning ways to assess problem solving. Oliveira and Varandas (2002) focused explicitly on the use of computers in their study of work undertaken in a one semester ICT course in a preservice program for secondary school mathematics . The results show that participants fell on a continuum ranging from not much discernible implementation to substantial integration of problem solving in their teaching. the author found that “cued metaphors” provided a meaningful way in helping the participants to enhance their interpretations regarding problem solving and its teaching. Both courses included substantial time on group work on problems and giving presentations and justifications to the class. The study was carried out during a one-term. generalizing. The uncued-metaphor group regarded problem solving as “a sequential process in which a successful solution depended on a clear. then again on an individual level. 180). logical choice among alternative strategies [and] the teaching of problem solving was viewed as guiding students through these steps” (p. For each problem posed. and wrote journals. using a “cuedmetaphor approach” (requiring an explicit determination of a metaphor). and justifying their work. For example. described in detail. The first course (24 participants) focused on problem posing and modeling and the second (20 participants) provided a model for reflecting on one’s problem solving and concentrated on specializing. A further way of integrating the learning of content and pedagogy was through special emphasis on ICT or computers. The ultimate purpose was to influence teaching practice toward implementation of the NCTM standards. which experienced considerable growth in her views of problem solving and its role in instruction and incorporated such learning into her classroom practices.

They were also able to grasp more connections among mathematics topics. The authors suggest that teachers’ future professional identity will involve this kind of relationship with ICT. On the other hand. these studies point to important dimensions of professional practice that teacher education programs need to address and exemplify a variety of approaches. This course aimed to help pre-service teachers develop a positive attitude regarding ICT and use it confidently. the authors conclude that preservice teachers changed from an initial attitude of fear and suspicion towards ICT to a positive relationship with this technology that they were able to learn to use confidently. Based on classroom observation.teachers. in which they are not only consumers of Internet contents but also producers and co-producers of web pages with their pupils. findings indicate that most participants who studied various mathematical courses and experienced intensive work with the computer used it for better understanding of the problems (69%) and to find solutions (93%). The value of integrating content and pedagogy. Another technology study was carried out by Gorev et al. their historical development. teaching in a way consistent with to proposed curriculum. a questionnaire and analysis of participants’ products. It is not so clear how much of this reflection addresses preservice teachers preconceptions and how much empowerment they develop to teach in their . The authors argue that all the computerized tools are to be learned and taught in context to be a meaningful way of study and that preservice teachers need to be able to lead enlightened mathematical discussions about the abilities of the tool. It was based on project-work pedagogy and focused on the exploration of educational software and of the Internet’s potential as a means of researching and publishing educational material. The participants indicated that mastering several mathematical packages was essential in their success and supported embedding computers in their learning process. and aspects of classroom learning processes and developed a general perspective about the uses of this technology in mathematics education. who studied the effects of use of computers in mathematics courses along their teacher education program at an Israeli university. applications. and promoting reflection and ownership in learning seems to be well established. sharing their explorations of mathematics themes and their teaching-learning experiences. Taken together. Based on written responses by 70 primary and secondary preservice teachers at different stages of the program. (2004). only few of those who were only briefly acquainted with the computer admitted that they used it for the better understanding (12%) and even less used it to find solutions (3%).

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