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fraction2 - J Math Teacher Educ(2009 12:89109 DOI...

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Instructional practices related to prospective elementary school teachers’ motivation for fractions Kristie Jones Newton Published online: 10 February 2009 Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009 Abstract This study was undertaken in order to better understand prospective ele- mentary school teachers’ motivations for working with fractions before and after taking a course designed to deepen their understanding of mathematics, as well as what instructional practices might be related to any changes detected in their motivations. Eighty-five education students were given a motivation questionnaire at the beginning and end of the semester, and observations were made of the 9 days when fractions were taught. Three levels of teacher data were collected to understand instructional practices. Students’ ratings of the importance and usefulness of fractions ( value ), self-concept of ability , and anxiety were near the center of the scale at pre-test, with only value in the desired direction. At posttest, value and self-concept of ability increased while anxiety decreased, but these changes differed somewhat by instructor. In particular, reform- oriented practices, such as engaging students in high-level discourse, seemed to be associated with lowered anxiety. Keywords Instructional practices Á Prospective teachers Á Preservice teachers Á Anxiety Á Motivation Á Fractions Á Self concept Á Mathematics education Á Reform Unfortunately, elementary education majors tend to be among the most anxious college students with regard to mathematics (Hembree 1990 ). They also tend to feel less confident about mathematics, view mathematics as a set of arbitrary facts rather than interconnected ideas, and blame their weak knowledge on this arbitrariness (Ball 1990 ). While studies have clearly demonstrated that prospective elementary teachers have low motivation for K. J. Newton ( & ) Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology in Education, College of Education, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA e-mail: [email protected] 123 J Math Teacher Educ (2009) 12:89–109 DOI 10.1007/s10857-009-9098-z
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mathematics in general, it is unclear whether there are topic-specific differences in their motivation. Moreover, the majority of anxiety studies have used the Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale (MARS), which includes some academic situations but primarily focuses on practical uses of mathematics outside of the classroom (Hembree 1990 ; Suinn et al. 1972 ; Swars et al. 2006 ; Vinson 2001 ; Wigfield and Meece 1988 ). This gap in knowledge is unfortunate because it is likely that elementary teachers’ attitudes would vary with the topic (e.g., they may feel comfortable with addition of whole numbers but not with division of fractions). Attitudinal differences, in turn, may lead to differences in how teachers prepare and present material on different topics to their students (Trice and Ogden 1986 ).
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