Term of Award

Winter 2003

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Committee Chair

William M. Reynolds

Committee Member 1

Gregory Chamblee

Committee Member 2

Cordelia D. Zinskie

Committee Member 3

Sharon E. Taylor

Abstract

Mathematics teacher educators have agreed that teachers' beliefs about mathematics are contributing factors in their instructional practices, that preservice teachers' views of teaching and learning mathematics are influenced by their beliefs about mathematics, and that the process of becoming a teacher of mathematics is mediated by the student's beliefs about mathematics, teaching mathematics, and learning mathematics. This study involved an investigation of early childhood (K-5) preservice teachers' beliefs about the nature of mathematics, how mathematics should be taught, and how mathematics is learned. The purpose of the study was to determine the beliefs of groups of early childhood (K-5) preservice teachers who were at different points of completion of a sequence of four mathematics content courses required for the Early Childhood Teacher Education Program, and to determine if any differences in beliefs existed among the groups.

The study was conducted at a university in the southeast during the 2003 Spring Semester and the 2003 Summer Semester. The participants were early childhood (K-5) preservice teachers enrolled in the four mathematics content courses. Data were collected using a Demographic Information Questionnaire and the Mathematics Beliefs Scale (MBS), a Likert-scaled instrument used to assess the beliefs of the preservice teachers on three sub-scales: Beliefs About the Nature of Mathematics (MBS Nature), Beliefs About How Mathematics Should be Taught (MBS Teach), and Beliefs About How Mathematics is Learned (MBS Learn). The MBS was administered to students who were entering the first course in the 2003 Summer Semester, and to students completing each of the four courses in the 2003 Spring Semester.

A score was determined for each sub-scale and the Total MBS (sum of sub-scale scores). The scores were used to compare the beliefs of the groups and to establish whether their beliefs were consistent with mathematics education reform recommendations. Statistical measures were used to determine if any significant differences in beliefs existed among the groups for their beliefs about mathematics, teaching mathematics, and learning mathematics.

Results indicated that the beliefs of early childhood (K-5) preservice teachers varied little over the sequence of the four courses. The only significant differences found were for Beliefs About How Mathematics is Learned between students in the first course and students completing the last course of the sequence. Beliefs of the early childhood (K-5) preservice teachers tended to show only a small indication of agreement with mathematics education reform recommendations. Overall, the results indicated that the preservice teachers conceived of mathematics as facts, rules, and procedures to be memorized, teaching as presenting rules and procedures to students, and learning mathematics as simply acquiring procedural knowledge/understanding.

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