Engaged Teachers Engaging Students: Elementary Pre-Service Teachers’ Social Constructivist Classrooms During Mathematical Problem Solving
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The Ontario Ministry of Education has implemented numerous changes to elementary mathematics programs over the last four years. These modifications called for mathematics lead teachers in every elementary school, curricular changes, and an hour of mathematics learning time every day for every student in Grades 1 to 8. At one point, the proposed changes to the curriculum included a focus on skills that would better prepare students for the professional world, such as problem solving and communication. The Ministry of Education has long supported both problem solving and communication as integral processes in the teaching and learning of mathematics, however, not much is known about Ontario elementary pre-service teachers’ perceptions of problem solving and communication. Elementary pre-service teachers are an important group as they are developing their educational beliefs and practices through their teacher education programs. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore elementary pre-service teachers’ perceptions of the relationship between communication and mathematical problem- solving learning contexts in the ongoing improvement efforts in mathematics education in Ontario. Using a social constructivist conceptual framework, this qualitative case study utilized focus groups and one-on-one interviews with 15 elementary pre-service teachers in order to explore their perceptions of problem solving and use of communication in mathematics education. The data were collected in December of 2018 and were subsequently analyzed using a constant comparison method, which consists of creating open codes, building these codes into categories, and then finding emerging themes. The analysis of the focus groups and interviews portrayed the elementary pre-service teachers’ perceptions and use of communication in mathematics education as well as their perceptions of mathematical problem solving in learning contexts. Furthermore, analysis of the focus group and interview data described how participants were thinking about mathematical problem solving and the nature of their communication in mathematical problem-solving learning contexts. An implication of this research is the improvement of our understanding of elementary pre-service teachers’ perceptions in teacher preparation programs. A recommendation for future research is to conduct a similar study with intermediate-senior mathematics pre-service teachers or elementary pre-service teachers in other teacher education programs in Ontario.