Department of Mathematics Colloquium


Abstract 

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 (processoriented) aspects of the science (Ball, 1990;
Ernest, 1988; Skemp, 1978). In this talk I will share the results of a quasiexperimental, mixedmethods study of the mathematical beliefs of preservice teachers. The study sought to determine the relationship between participation in informal mathematics activities and the formaltoinformal 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 formaltoinformal 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.
