Towards successful mathematical literacy learning - a study of preservice teacher education module.
Hobden, Sally Diane.
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The purpose of this study was to extend our knowledge about mathematical literacy learning with the focus on a foundational preservice teacher education module required for prospective teachers. The construct of mathematical proficiency provided a framework for understanding how successful learning depends on a multiplicity of competences, and in particular to highlight the pivotal role of a productive disposition towards mathematics in becoming mathematically literate. The main questions that guided the study were as follows: What is the nature and strength of the productive disposition strand of mathematical proficiency evident in preservice teachers entering a Mathematical Literacy module and how does this productive disposition change over the course of the module? and What pedagogical practices and learning behaviours best enable preservice teachers to achieve mathematical literacy? The study was undertaken as two overlapping case studies, the first describing the preservice teachers at the onset of their studies in the Mathematical Literacy for Educators module, and in the second, a three part story-telling case study of the unfolding of the module over three years from 2003 to 2005. The mathematics autobiographies of 254 preservice teachers and the data obtained from a premodule questionnaire and introductory class activities contributed to the first case study which was summarised in the form of three fictional letters. Written reflections, final module evaluations and the insights of my co-workers contributed to the second case study which documented the successes and struggles of the preservice teachers as the module unfolded each year. Complementary mixed methods techniques were used to analyse the multiple sources of data and to weave strong ropes of evidence to support the findings. Statistical analysis pointed to themes which were supported or tempered by qualitative evidence reported in the voices of the preservice teachers themselves. The analysis revealed that many of the preservice teachers entering the Mathematical Literacy for Educators module had found their school experience of mathematics to be dispiriting and consequently had developed negative dispositions towards the subject. The change in this disposition depended on their success in the module and the empathy shown by the lecturer. Helpful pedagogical practices were found to be those that supported language difficulties in learning mathematics, assisted in organising learning, remediated for poor schooling background in mathematics and took account of the diversity amongst the students. I argue that many of the lessons learned and insights gained from teaching the Mathematical Literacy for Educators module are relevant to the expanding number of mathematics courses required as part of humanities programmes. In addition, they can inform practices at school level and in both in mathematics and mathematical literacy teacher education.