Tasks in Primary Mathematics Teacher Education

Volume 4 of the series Mathematics Teacher Education pp 197-214

Using Mathematically Rich Tasks to Deepen the Pedagogical Content Knowledge of Primary Teachers

  • George AshlineAffiliated withProfessor of Mathematics, Saint Michaels College
  • , Regina QuinnAffiliated withProject Director and co-PI of the Vermont Mathematics Partnership

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Professional development experiences for elementary educators in the United States are often of insufficient depth, duration or relevance to have an impact on teaching (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999). To counter this prevailing norm, mathematics and education faculty involved in the Vermont Mathematics Partnership (VMP) design courses and series of workshops for inservice and preservice elementary teachers to help them more deeply understand mathematics and the critical role of the primary curriculum in building young students' foundation for learning complex mathematics.

This chapter describes primary grade teacher professional development sessions which focused on mathematically rich tasks that featured:

  • adult exploration of significant mathematical content

  • engaging activities designed and carefully sequenced to build conceptual understanding of mathematics that most educators have previously learned as simple rote procedures

  • open-ended design so that challenging tasks were accessible to all participants – regardless of their prior learning, and

  • mathematical content that, although not directly transferable to the primary classroom, was clearly linked to the fundamental roots that develop in the early grades.

The tasks included in these sessions were one feature of the Vermont Mathematics Partnership, a comprehensive initiative to improve mathematics teaching and learning in schools across the state of Vermont.