Department of Mathematics Colloquium

University of Idaho

Spring 2012

Thursday,  February 9, 3:30-4:20 pm, room TLC 032

Refreshments in Brink 305 at 4:30 pm

Informal Mathematics Activities and the Beliefs of Elementary Teacher Candidates


Matt Roscoe

Faculty Associate, Department of Curriculum and Instruction

University of Wisconsin-Madison


Researchers have identified the important role that beliefs about mathematics play in instructional decision making (i.e. Ernest, 1988; Schoenfeld, 1985).  Given the central role that beliefs play in the classroom it follows that an element of preservice teacher education should concern itself with the development of beliefs that facilitate the learning of mathematics.  Of particular concern are the beliefs of preservice teachers that characterize the subject as purely formal (procedural) while neglecting the informal (process-oriented) aspects of the science (Ball, 1990; Ernest, 1988; Skemp, 1978).  

In this talk I will share the results of a quasi-experimental, mixed-methods study of the mathematical beliefs of preservice teachers.  The study sought to determine the relationship between participation in informal mathematics activities and the formal-to-informal beliefs of university teacher candidates in elementary education.  Three classes of preservice teachers participated in the study through their enrollment in a content mathematics course for elementary education majors.  Four informal mathematics activities were employed as part of the course requirements.  Pre and post formal-to-informal beliefs about mathematics and mathematics instruction were measured using a Likert scale beliefs assessment instrument used by Collier (1972) and Seaman et al. (2005).  Changes in beliefs about mathematics and mathematics instruction were compared to a control group.  Student reflection upon personal experience derived from participation in the activities was analyzed for formal and informal belief statements.