The Influence of University Courses and Field Experiences on Chinese Elementary Candidates’ Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching

From Section:
Instruction in Teacher Training
May. 10, 2013

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 64(3), p. 244-261, 2013.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this study, the authors investigate associations between Chinese elementary teaching candidates’ mathematical knowledge for teaching (MKT) and their experiences in mathematics courses, mathematics methods courses, and student teaching.

This study draws on survey data collected from four elementary teacher preparation programs in spring 2010 in Zhejiang province in China.

Each program was a 4-year bachelor’s degree program at a normal university or college, but the programs varied with regard to program administration, size, selectivity, and whether they prepared elementary teachers to teach multiple subjects or only mathematics.
The authors selected a purposive sample of preparation programs to increase the likelihood of variation in teaching candidates’ courses, student teaching experiences, and MKT.
Among the 100 teaching candidates, 83% were female and 17% were male.


The authors found that Chinese elementary candidates’ MKT in number and operations (N&O) was associated with taking two particular mathematics courses, number theory and mathematical reasoning.

This study provides evidence that candidates who were exposed to greater numbers of topics in general pedagogy courses had higher levels of MKT in N&O.
This seems due to the fact that MKT incorporates general pedagogical knowledge; thus, opportunities to learn, for example, about lesson planning and student assessment in general pedagogy courses can help candidates develop subject-specific teaching knowledge in these areas.
The study also found that exposure in general pedagogy courses to two specific topics, classroom management and collaborative group work, was especially valuable for teaching candidates’ MKT.
It found that the number of topics encountered in mathematics methods courses was associated with MKT in putterns, functions and algebra (PFA).
In addition, these results indicated that candidates’ exposure to decompositions of practice was associated with MKT in N&O and PFA.
Furthermore, opportunities to engage in approximations of practice were related to MKT in N&O.
Finally, this study found that the extent to which a teaching candidate engages in student teaching with full responsibility for instruction was directly related to their level of MKT in N&O while the overall length of student teaching did not seem to matter.
This suggests that preparation programs should pay attention to the amount of time during which student teachers have complete responsibility for instruction in their classrooms.

These findings suggest that Chinese teacher preparation programs can help elementary candidates acquire MKT by (a) requiring courses in number theory and mathematical reasoning, (b) addressing classroom management and collaborative group work in general pedagogy courses, (c) exposing them to decompositions of practice in mathematics methods courses, (d) having them engage in approximations of practice in mathematics methods courses and student teaching, and (e) providing opportunities for them to engage in student teaching with full responsibility for instruction.
At the same time, because Chinese teaching candidates generally acquire strong mathematics content knowledge at the secondary school level, their high levels of MKT may be due to strong subject matter preparation as well as experiences in teacher preparation.

Updated: Oct. 28, 2019
Elementary school teachers | Knowledge base | Learning experience | Mathematics instruction | Mathematics teachers | Pedagogical content knowledge