Investigating the Knowledge Needed for Teaching Mathematics: An Exploratory Validation Study Focusing on Teaching Practices

Jul. 01, 2016

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 67(3) 220-237, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study attempted to validate the argument that special knowledge is needed for teaching, in addition to pure mathematical knowledge.
The authors explored participants’ knowledge with respect to four teaching practices: providing and evaluating explanations; selecting and using representations; analyzing student errors, misconceptions, and non-conventional solutions; and selecting tasks.

The participants were 644 Greek-Cypriots preservice and inservice elementary school teachers and university students with strong mathematical background.
The authors employed a multiple-choice elementary teacher survey developed by the Learning Mathematics for Teaching (LMT) group at the University of Michigan.


The authors found no statistically significant differences between the three groups under consideration in the pure mathematical knowledge items.
This finding has both methodological and practical implications.
From a methodological point, it suggests that measuring teacher knowledge by using multiple-choice tests might mask true differences that may exist among participants from different populations. Hence, alternative approaches are needed to tap into participants’ knowledge.

From a practical perspective, these findings could imply that there might be other routes to improve teachers’ mathematical knowledge, including engaging them in systematic mathematical reasoning around specific problems and trying to concurrently strengthen both their mathematical and pedagogical background .

Furthermore, this study has other theoretical, methodological, and practical implications.
From a theoretical standpoint, these results imply that in addition to considering different types of knowledge, progress on conceptualizing and measuring teacher knowledge can also be made by focusing on certain teaching practices.
From a methodological standpoint, this study underscores the importance of using a mixed-methods design in validation works. The authors argue that employing a mixed-methods approach appears to be a promising path for empirically testing arguments regarding the extent to which special types of knowledge are needed for effectively pursuing different teaching tasks.
From a practical perspective, the study findings lend credence to the idea that teacher knowledge should not be regarded as a static entity. Rather, it should be seen as constantly evolving and as being malleable to changes throughout teacher preparation and career.

Updated: Jun. 26, 2017