Exploring pre-service mathematics teachers' knowledge and use of mathematical modelling as a strategy for solving real-world problems.
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Mathematical modelling is an area in mathematics education that has been much researched but conspicuously absent from the South African curriculum. The last few years have seen a move towards re-inclusion of mathematical modelling in the South African school curriculum. According to the National Curriculum Statement (2003a), “mathematical modelling provides learners with the means to analyse and describe their world mathematically, and so allows learners to deepen their understanding of Mathematics while adding to their mathematical tools for solving real-world problems”. The purpose of this study was to explore pre-service mathematics teachers’ conception of mathematical modelling and the different strategies that pre-service mathematics teachers use when solving real-world mathematics problems. This study further investigated pre-service mathematics teachers’ ability to facilitate the understanding of specific mathematical modelling problems. Twenty-one fourth year Further Education and Training students from the Faculty of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal participated in this study. In order to obtain appropriate data to answer the research questions, the researcher designed three different research instruments. The open-ended questionnaire and the task-based questionnaire were administered to all the participants, whilst ten participants were chosen to be interviewed. The data that was collected was analysed qualitatively. The research findings emanating from this study suggested that pre-service mathematics teachers did not have a suitable working knowledge of mathematical modelling, but were nonetheless able to use their mathematical competencies to solve the three real-world problems that formed part of the task-based questionnaire. It was found that although the participants were aware of different strategies to solve these real-world mathematics problems, they choose to use the ones that they were most familiar with. It is hoped that this study would prompt more universities to include mathematical modelling courses in the curriculum for prospective mathematics teachers.
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