Revealing teachers' notions of mathematics

Year: 1994

Author: Sanders, Susan E.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper describes research undertaken in acknowledgement of the role that teachers' beliefs, views and understandings about mathematics play in mathematical education. It is the author's view that any development of the teaching of mathematics has to take account of teachers' notions about the nature of mathematics. As a preface to this, mechanisms are needed to gain insights into what those notions might be. The philosophy of mathematics contributes what might be seen as "theoretical perspectives of the nature of mathematics". What this research attempts to do is to find ways of investigating the "working perspectives of the nature of mathematics" of teachers. The dichotomy of teachers' espoused views and those on which their teaching appears to be based leads to a need for research methods which explore both.

This research, then, explores ways of finding out about teachers' conceptions (beliefs, views and understandings) of mathematics. Three methods are used (survey, interview and observation) and although to some extent these may be seen in terms of triangulation they are also discussed as stand-alone methods. The author's disenchantment with reliance on traditional statistical survey methods becomes apparent and the strengths of qualitative methods emerge. The findings illustrate the complexity of teachers' beliefs compared with the cut- and-dried expositions of the philosophers.