A Capstone Mathematics Course for Prospective Secondary Mathematics Teachers

Jun. 01, 2012

Source: Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, Vol. 15, Issue 3, June (2012), 251–262.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The present article describes an innovative capstone mathematics course that links college mathematics with school mathematics and pedagogy.

The objectives of this course are to give students the tools to synthesize the higher-level mathematics courses they have taken in their undergraduate studies with leadership experiences that enable them to learn mathematics for teaching while developing student-centered pedagogical and assessment strategies.

In this article, the authors provide a brief description of Math 385 along with one group’s experience, and share preliminary analyses of the impact of the course.

Description of Math 385
In this course, the college students work in small groups to investigate the major content strands from the secondary school curriculum, each presented as a ‘‘unit’’ of Math 385: Number and Operations, Algebra, Measurement, Geometry, and Data Analysis and Probability (NCTM 2000).

Each group meets with the professor before and after class to plan, to review student work, and to debrief.
As each lesson takes place, the professor might emphasize a point or ask a question, but the majority of the teaching is left to the group.
Students as a group teach a series of five cohesive lessons for their unit and create and engage the class in many problem-solving activities that incorporate the use of manipulatives and a variety of technologies.
Whenever suitable, they include real-life examples and interesting historical anecdotes.

The participants in this study were 112 undergraduate students who were enrolled in the methods course during 2006 through 2009.


The aspects of Math 385 indicated that students gained an appreciation of cooperative learning, seeing other students’ approaches to problems, and student-centered instruction.
They learned very valuable lessons from the tasks of preparing, implementing, and reflecting on a set of lessons and creating and grading homework assignments and quizzes.
Many students pointed out how reviewing the homework helped identify surprising areas where students had misconceptions.
In their debriefing sessions, their journals, and their portfolios, the students revealed that they had also learned quite a bit about teaching mathematics.

Furthermore, the students often connected their experiences in this course to what they planned to do when they become teachers.
They learned to be reflective about their own and others’ instructional practice, a skill that will help them throughout their teaching careers.
Finally, this course gave prospective teachers student-centered mathematics learning experiences.


The authors conclude that a capstone course in which extensive opportunities are provided for prospective teachers to revisit the secondary school mathematics content from an advanced perspective and gain experience in engaging in the full gamut of teachers’ responsibilities is essential for their preparation to teach mathematics meaningfully.

Updated: Mar. 12, 2014