Who Teaches Mathematics Content Courses for Prospective Elementary Teachers in the United States? Results of a National Survey

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Published: 
Oct. 01, 2012

Source: Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, Vol. 15, Issue 5, October 2012, p. 347-358.

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The goal of this research was to answer the question, ‘‘Who teaches mathematics content courses for prospective elementary teachers at colleges and universities in the United States, and what are these instructors’ academic and teaching backgrounds?’’
The authors decided to conduct a survey of all higher institutions in the United States.
They surveyed 1,926 institutions, and a faculty member from each of 825 institutions (42.8 %) participated in the survey.

The survey had questions related to
(a) mathematics courses,
(b) instructors and their backgrounds, and
(c) training and support for instructors.
The authors organized the analysis of the results according to these categories.

Conclusions

The survey results point out that most institutions are not meeting the recommendation of requiring prospective elementary teachers to complete nine credits hours of mathematics content courses designed specifically to support them in thinking carefully about elementary mathematical ideas.
The findings reveal that the vast majority of the responding schools (78.4 %) offer mathematics content courses specifically for prospective elementary teachers.

The majority (56.7 %) of schools having mathematics content courses specifically forprospective elementary teachers offer two of these mathematics content courses, while.17.1% offer three, 16.1 % offer one.
Furthermore, more than half (54.4 %) of these schools required prospective elementary
teachers to take two mathematics content courses specifically for them, while 17.2 %require three of these courses, 16.2 % require one of these courses, and 3.6 % do not require prospective elementary teachers to take any of these courses.

Additionally, most instructors for these courses do not have elementary teaching experience and likely have not had opportunities to think deeply about the important ideas in elementary mathematics.
The findings reveal that 61% of the course supervisors had secondary school teaching experience, and 28.9 % had elementary school teaching experience.

Furthermore, most institutions do not provide training and/or support for these instructors.
Data indicated that less than half of the respondents (44.3 %) indicated that there was training and/or support at their institutions for instructors of mathematics content courses for prospective elementary teachers.

The authors suggest that in order to change this situation, all institutions preparing elementary teachers offer and require at least nine credits of mathematics content courses designed for this population, and prepare and support the instructors who teach these courses.
They also suggest that there be collaboration among instructors.
Institutions with multiple instructors can form communities of practice at their sites. Instructors who are alone in teaching these courses at their institutions can seek out instructors at other institutions for support.

Professional organizations, such as the AMTE, offer resources through membership, conference sessions, and pre-conference workshops.
Social media, such as Facebook, can also provide support through opportunities to discuss teaching, curriculum, assessment, and planning ideas with others.

Finally, these survey results, combined with other research on prospective elementary teachers’ achievement, may help the mathematics education community develop standards for the teacher educators who teach mathematics content courses for this population.

Updated: Apr. 13, 2014
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