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Primary Student Teachers' Understanding of Mathematics and Its Teaching

Tony Brown, Olwen McNamara, Una Hanley and Liz Jones
British Educational Research Journal
Vol. 25, No. 3 (Jun., 1999), pp. 299-322
Published by: Wiley on behalf of BERA
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1501843
Page Count: 24
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Primary Student Teachers' Understanding of Mathematics and Its Teaching
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Abstract

This article reports on research into primary student teachers' understanding of mathematics and its teaching undertaken at the Manchester Metropolitan University and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The research set out to investigate the ways in which non-specialist student teachers conceptualise mathematics and its teaching and how their views evolve as they progress through an initial training course. The study has shown how the mathematical understanding of such students is, in the first instance, embedded in a strongly affective account of their own mathematical experiences in schools, where mathematics was often seen as difficult and threatening. College training successfully nurtures a more positive attitude to mathematics as a subject, albeit couched in a pedagogically oriented frame. In later stages of training however, their conceptions of mathematics and its teaching are subsumed within the organisational concerns of placement schools and school experience tutors, and shaped by commercial schemes. It is suggested that alternative conceptions of mathematics assumed at different stages of this training appear incommensurable. A theoretical framework is offered as an approach to reconciling this conflict. This demonstrates how three potential dichotomies, phenomenological/official versions of mathematics, discovery/transmission conceptions of mathematics teaching, and perceptual/structural understandings of the mathematics teacher's task can be seen as productive dualities harnessing both qualitative and quantitative perspectives.

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