The challenges facing initial teacher education: Irish prospective elementary teachers' mathematics subject matter knowledge

Hourigan, M. and O'Donoghue, J. (2013) The challenges facing initial teacher education: Irish prospective elementary teachers' mathematics subject matter knowledge. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 44 (1). pp. 36-58. ISSN 0020739X (ISSN)

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Given the acknowledged relationship between teachers' knowledge, their teaching and pupil learning, teachers' mathematics subject matter knowledge (MSMK) has received increased attention internationally. As children's early mathematics experiences have been recognized as a critical stage, elementary teachers' MSMK has become a focal point among researchers and policy makers alike. International research findings have uncovered that in many cases, there is a mismatch between what is perceived to be an appropriate MSMK for teaching elementary mathematics and that demonstrated by many qualified and prospective elementary teachers. Following repeated incidences of weak MSMK during interactions with prospective elementary teachers in one Irish College of Education (provider of initial teacher education programme for elementary teachers), this study sought to examine and address the issue purposefully through two cycles of action research. This article focuses on the data collected prospective teachers' MSMK in the initial stage (reconnaissance) of these cycles, i.e. pre-test findings. While considerable differences were evident among the pre-test population, the findings suggest that prior to the intervention stage many participating prospective teachers; regardless of previous mathematics achievements or the level of mathematics study; demonstrate weaknesses and gaps in their 'common' MSMK. Particular difficulties were evident in relation to pre-test items requiring knowledge of rational numbers, conceptual understanding or problem solving. These findings highlight the inadequacy of previous mathematics achievements and indeed minimum entry requirements as predictors of MSMK for teaching. As well as its contribution at a local and national level, the findings provide an Irish perspective on this international issue. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

Item Type: Article
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Uncontrolled Keywords: initial teacher education (ITE); mathematics pre-test; mathematics subject matter knowledge (MSMK); prospective elementary teachers
Depositing User: Colin Lowry
Last Modified: 27 Nov 2015 09:51

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