Mathematics Education Research Journal

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 37–55 | Cite as

Beliefs about mathematics teaching held by pre-service teachers involved in a first grade mentorship program

  • Laura R. Van Zoest
  • Graham A. Jones
  • Carol A. Thornton


The study compared beliefs about mathematics teaching of four pre-service elementary teachers involved in an intervention experience with those of their non-involved peers. During this intervention, which was based on a socio-constructivist approach to mathematics instruction, the intervention group participated in regular, small-group teaching experiences supported by on-going seminars. The study also examined the relationship between professed beliefs and observed actions for the intervention group.

Although most pre-service teachers in this study seemed to attach some importance to children building their own knowledge through social interaction, the intervention group professed significantly stronger beliefs in a socio-constructivist instructional environment than the comparison group. Even though the intervention group strongly espoused socio-constructivist beliefs, they were not uniformly successful in translating these beliefs into instructional actions. Their actions appeared to be most consistent with a socio-constructivist perspective during the initial phase of an instructional episode, but in later phases their actions reflected more traditional beliefs about teaching mathematics.


Mathematics Teaching Prospective Teacher Stated Belief Teacher Belief Teacher Action 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ball, D. L. (1988). Unlearning to teach mathematics.For the Learning of Mathematics, 8(1), 40–48.Google Scholar
  2. Ball, D. L. (1990). Breaking with experience in learning to teach mathematics: The role of a pre-service methods course.For the Learning of Mathematics, 10(2), 10–16.Google Scholar
  3. Bednarz, N., & Janvier, B. (1988). A constructivist approach to numeration in primary school: Results of a three year intervention with the same group of children.Educational Studies in Mathematics, 19, 299–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Civil, M. (1990). “You only do math in math”: A look at four prospective teacher’s views about mathematics.For the Learning of Mathematics, 10(1), 7–9.Google Scholar
  5. Cobb, P., Wood, T., & Yackel, E. (1990). Classrooms as learning environments for teachers and researchers. In R.B. Davis (Ed.),Constructivist views on the teaching and learning of mathematics (pp.125–146). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.Google Scholar
  6. Cobb, P., Wood, T., & Yackel, E. (1991). A constructivist approach to second grade mathematics. In E. von Glasersfeld (Ed.),Radical constructivism in mathematics education (pp.157–176). Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  7. Cobb, P., Wood, T., Yackel, E., Nicholls, J., Wheatley, G., Trigatti, B., & Perlwitz, M. (1991). Assessment of a problem-centered second-grade mathematics project.Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 22(1), 3–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Eisenhart, M. A. (1988). The ethnographic research tradition and mathematics education research.Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 19(2), 99–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ernest, P. (1989). The impact of beliefs on the teaching of mathematics. In P. Ernest (Ed.),Mathematics teaching: The state of the art (pp.249–253). New York: Falmer.Google Scholar
  10. Farris, P. J., Henniger, M., & Bischoff, J. A. (1991). After the wave of reform, the role of early clinical experiences in elementary teacher education.Action in Teacher Education, 13(2), 20–24.Google Scholar
  11. Jones, G. A., & Thornton, C. A. (1993). Vygotsky revisited: Nurturing young children’s understanding of number.Focus on Learning Problems in Mathematics, 25(2&3), 18–28.Google Scholar
  12. Jones, G. A., Thornton, C.A., & Van Zoest, L. R. (1992).First Grade Children’s Understanding of Multi-Digit Numbers. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.Google Scholar
  13. Jones, G. A., Thornton, C. A., & Putt, I. J. (in press). A model for nurturing and assessing multidigit number sense among first grade children.Educational Studies in Mathematics.Google Scholar
  14. Kesler, R., Jr. (1985).Teachers’ instructional behavior related to their conceptions of teaching and mathematics and their level of dogmatism: Four case studies. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia, Athens.Google Scholar
  15. Kirk, R.E. (1982).Experimental design: Procedures for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Pub. Co.Google Scholar
  16. Kuhs, T. M., & Ball, D. L. (1986).Approaches to teaching mathematics: Mapping the domains of knowledge, skills, and disposition (Research Memo). Lansing, MI: Michigan State University, Center on Teacher EducationGoogle Scholar
  17. Leder, G. C. (1985). Measurement of attitude to mathematics.For the Learning of Mathematics, 5(3), 18–34.Google Scholar
  18. Leitzel, J. R. C. (1991).A call for change: Recommendations for the mathematical preparation of teachers of mathematics. Washington, D.C.: Mathematical Association of America.Google Scholar
  19. Mandler, G. (1989). Affect and learning: Causes and consequences of emotional interactions. In D. B. McLeod & V. M. Adams (Eds.),Affect and mathematical problem solving: A new perspective (pp. 3–19). New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  20. McDiarmid, G. W. (1990). Challenging prospective teachers’ beliefs during early field experience: A quixotic undertaking?Journal of Teacher Education, 41(3), 12–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. McLeod, D. B. (1989). The role of affect in mathematical problem solving. In D.B. McLeod & V.M. Adams (Eds.),Affect and mathematical problem solving: A new perspective (pp. 20–35). New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  22. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A.M. (1984).Qualitative data analysis: A sourcebook of new methods. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (1989).Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics. Reston, VA: Author.Google Scholar
  24. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (1991).Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics. Reston, VA: Author.Google Scholar
  25. National Research Council. (1989).Everybody counts: A report to the nation on the future of mathematics education. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  26. Parmelee, J. (1992).Instructional patterns of student teachers of middle school mathematics: An ethnographic study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Illinois State University.Google Scholar
  27. Piaget, J. (1970).Genetic epistimology. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Richards, J. (1991). Mathematical discussions. In E. von Glasersfeld (Ed.),Radical constructivism tit mathematics education (pp. 13–51). Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  29. Ross, S. M., Hughes, T. M., & Hill, R. E. (1981). Field experiences a meaningful contexts for learning about learning.Journal of Educational Research, 75(2), 103–107.Google Scholar
  30. Scherer, C. (1979). Effects of early field experience on student teachers’ self-concepts and performance.Journal of Educational Research, 47, 208–214.Google Scholar
  31. Steffe, L. P., Cobb, P., & von Glasersfeld, E. (1988).Construction of arithmetical meanings and strategies. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  32. Steffe, L. P., von Glasersfeld, E., Richards, J., &, Cobb, P. (1983).Children’s counting types: Philosophy, theory, and application. New York: Praeger Scientific.Google Scholar
  33. Strawitz, B. M., & Malone, M. R. (1986). The influence of field experiences on stages of concern and attitudes of pre-service teachers toward science and science teaching.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 23(4), 311–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sunal, D. W. (1980). Effects of field experience during elementary methods course on pre-service teacher behavior.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 17, 17–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Thompson, A. G. (1992). Teachers’ beliefs and conceptions: A synthesis of the research. In D. A. Grouws (Ed.),Handbook of research on mathematics education (pp. 127–146). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of mathematics.Google Scholar
  36. Thornton, C. A., & Bohn, A. P. (1992).I can number the ways: Place value activities for early primary grades. Lincolnshire, IL: Learning Resources.Google Scholar
  37. Thornton, C. A., Jones, G. A., & Hill, K. (1993).More ways to number. Lincolnshire, IL: Learning Resources.Google Scholar
  38. Vygotsky, L. (1978).Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Wood, T., Cobb, P., & Yackel, E. (1991). Change in teaching mathematics: A case study.American Educational Research Journal, 28(3), 587–616.Google Scholar
  40. Wood, T., & Yackel, E. (1990). The development of collaborative dialogue within small group interactions. In L.P. Steffe & T. Wood (Eds.),Transforming children’s mathematics education. International perspectives (pp.244–252). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  41. Yackel, E., Cobb, P., & Wood, T. (1991). Small-group interactions as a source of learning opportunities in second-grade mathematics.Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 22(5), 390–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Yackel, E., Cobb, P., Wood, T., Wheatley, G., & Merkel, G. (1990). The importance of social interactions in children’s construction of mathematical knowledge. In T. Cooney (Ed.),1990 Yearbook of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (pp.12–21). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia Inc. 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura R. Van Zoest
    • 1
  • Graham A. Jones
    • 2
  • Carol A. Thornton
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Mathematics and StatisticsWestern Michigan UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Department of MathematicsIllinois State UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations