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Mathematics for teaching and deep subject knowledge: voices of Mathematics Enhancement Course students in England

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This article reports an investigation into how students of a mathematics course for prospective secondary mathematics teachers in England talk about the notion of ‘understanding mathematics in depth’, which was an explicit goal of the course. We interviewed eighteen students of the course. Through our social practice frame and in the light of a review of the literature on mathematical knowledge for teaching, we describe three themes that weave through the students’ talk: reasoning, connectedness and being mathematical. We argue that these themes illuminate privileged messages in the course, as well as the boundary and relationship between mathematical and pedagogic content knowledge in secondary mathematics teacher education practice.

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  1. ‘A Levels’, or more formally, the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level, is the academic qualification offered by educational institutions in the UK (i.e. England, Wales and Northern Ireland) to students aged 17–18 years who are completing pre-university education. A levels follow the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE).

  2. We are in the process of analysing survey data of MEC graduates since 2004 from each of the institutions in our study. The survey explores their entry into, retention and progression in their professional posts, and thus the efficacy of the MEC with respect to recruitment and retention of secondary mathematics teachers in the UK.

  3. The COACTIV project is described as follows: Professional Competence of Teachers, Cognitively Activating Instruction, and Development of Students´ Mathematical Literacy.


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This paper forms part of the QUANTUM-UK research project on Mathematics for Teaching, directed by Jill Adler, at King’s College London and the University of the Witwatersrand. This material is based upon work supported by King’s College London and the National Research Foundation South Africa under Grant number FA2006031800003, and undertaken by the collaborators authoring the paper. Any opinion, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Research Foundation.

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Adler, J., Hossain, S., Stevenson, M. et al. Mathematics for teaching and deep subject knowledge: voices of Mathematics Enhancement Course students in England. J Math Teacher Educ 17, 129–148 (2014).

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