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The Alignment of Preservice Elementary School Teachers’ Beliefs concerning Mathematics and Mathematics Teaching
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Preservice teachers bring to their studies a host of beliefs concerning the nature of mathematics. These mathematical beliefs have been shown to influence teachers’ instructional practices. Research that examines the alignment of beliefs about the nature of mathematics and beliefs about effective instructional practices have left many unanswered questions including, do beliefs concerning the nature of mathematics held by preservice primary-junior mathematics teachers align with beliefs concerning effective mathematics instruction at the beginning of teacher education programs? In this study, the beliefs Ontario preservice primary-junior (grades JK-6) teachers bring to their teacher preparation programs were examined and the alignment of beliefs concerning the nature of mathematics and the teaching and learning of mathematics was explored. Specifically, I investigated the beliefs of preservice teachers who displayed contradictory views on the nature of mathematics and effective instructional practice; preservice teachers who held absolutist beliefs about mathematics but intended to teach using a constructivist approach. A questionnaire was used to identify participants with misaligned beliefs, and interviews, with a focus on manipulative use, were used to further explore the nature of the misalignment. Preservice teachers were found to hold primarily absolutist beliefs about the source, stability and structure of mathematical knowledge and intended to use many constructivist tools and techniques in their teaching of mathematics. Further exploration of how and why these constructivist teaching tools and techniques were intended to be used revealed a more traditional mathematics teaching approach. The findings of this study therefore suggest that preservice teachers’ beliefs at the beginning of their teacher education program were primarily absolutist and traditional in nature and therefore were aligned. The misalignment of beliefs detected by the questionnaire could more appropriately be labelled an apparent misalignment.