An Evolution of Mathematical Beliefs: A Case Study of Three Pre-K Teachers

Oct. 01, 2010

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 31(4): 360–372, 2010.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this case study, the researcher investigated three pre-K teachers’ perceptions of mathematics curriculum at their school in west Alabama.

The participants were three pre-K teachers. All three teachers were White females who taught in pre-K classrooms with all minority students. The three teachers have varied number of years teaching, different educational backgrounds, and different teaching experiences.

This case study involved following three teachers at one school over the course of 6 months as they implemented a new mathematics curriculum in their pre-K classrooms. There were three types of data collection: individual interviews, observations, and informal conversations with the teachers.

Three themes emerged from the data (a) math resources for the pre-K classroom, (b( pushing beyond—thinking mathematically, and (c) instructional strategies used in the pre-K classroom. These themes revealed how all of the teachers’ perceptions of early childhood mathematics curriculum and instruction changed over the course of the study.


This study demonstrates that with an understanding of the scope and sequence of pre-K mathematics, teachers can improve their mathematics instruction in the pre-K classroom. These teachers evolved in their teaching by gaining a better understanding of the all the different areas of mathematics that can be taught in the early childhood classroom as well as to what depth the topics can be covered.

The teachers in this study pushed beyond their initial conceptions of what should be included in mathematics instruction. The teachers ended up expanding not only the mathematics topics they covered in their lesson but also to what degree they discussed mathematical ideas with their students.
This study demonstrated that when given a curriculum with little professional development an impact can be made on the teachers’ perceptions of what and how they should teach math in the early childhood classroom.

The most significant change in instructional strategies was the increase of small group instruction. The teachers explained that the curriculum helped them to understand the scope and sequence, which guided their questions. By understanding what to teach, the teachers were able to make the connections to push their mathematics instruction beyond calendar time, which included small group instruction.


There are implications for early childhood education programs as well as professional development opportunities for inservice teachers. First, early childhood education programs need to evaluate what is happening with regards to mathematics instruction

Professional development opportunities need to be available to help teachers make the connections between their current practices and the mathematics practices suggested in current research (Feiler, 2004). This study shows that teachers can change their instruction even with limited professional development.

Feiler, R. (2004). Early childhood mathematics instruction: Seeing opportunities among the challenges. In D. H. Clements & J. Sarama (Eds.), Engaging young children in mathematics: Standards for early childhood mathematics education (pp. 393–400). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Updated: Mar. 28, 2012