An exploration of preservice teachers’ Mathematics knowledge for teaching in Trigonometry at a higher education institution.
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This study investigates the extent of final-year preservice teachers’ understanding and development of the mathematics knowledge for teaching in trigonometry. Teachers’ lack of adequate mathematics knowledge to teach mathematics effectively is one of the major source of low mathematics attainment in South Africa. On this basis, the readiness of prospective teachers to teach mathematics must be established at the point of exit. The purpose of the present research study is to explore preservice teachers’ understanding and development of content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge in teaching trigonometry. The review of literature revealed that many preservice teachers lack the conceptual understanding of school mathematics. Thus, preservice teachers exit teacher education and enter the world of teaching with limited skills and abilities of teaching mathematics. The content test, task-based interview, lesson planning and lesson observations were used to gather data on preservice teachers’ understanding of content knowledge in trigonometry in response to three research questions. The sample of the study was composed of fifteen mathematics final-year preservice teachers who were registered for a Bachelor of Education degree programme at a rural-based institution of higher learning in South Africa. The sample was selected purposively. The mathematics knowledge for teaching conceptual framework by Ball, Thames and Phelps was used to structure the present study and provided lens for data analyses. The analysis of the content test results revealed that preservice teachers’ mastery of content knowledge in trigonometry was inadequate. The results from the task-based interview, lesson plan and lesson observation analyses indicated that the preservice teachers’ mastery of pedagogical content knowledge in trigonometry was limited. Moreover, the extent of preservice teachers’ development of mathematical knowledge for teaching based on results from classroom practices was sub-standard. The traditional teaching methods and learner-misconceptions never left preservice teachers all through the four years of teacher education. Therefore, more needs to be done by the higher education institution to accelerate growth of content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge through the provisions of methodology, content and teaching practices courses. The interplay of the three, methodology courses, content courses and teaching practice form the basis of an ideal preservice teacher.