Samoan preservice teachers' experiences working mathematically

Year: 2012

Author: Afamasaga-Fuata'i, Karoline

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Curricular reform in teaching primary mathematics in Samoan classrooms is an endeavour that is fraught with many problems both mathematical and socio-cultural. Not the least of these problems is the mathematical competence of preservice teachers (PSTs) at the beginning and end of their formal teacher education program. Whilst PSTs' mathematical performance may be monitored using repeated measures of a diagnostic test, PSTs' perceptions (of what is important in mathematics, their comprehension and practical understanding of an innovative way of thinking and reasoning about solving mathematical problems and learning mathematics) are also worthy of investigation. This paper reports data from a study of first year PSTs' evolving and developing mathematical competence based on two administration of a diagnostic tests with supporting data provided by their various assessment tasks in their semester long mathematics education course. These required tasks included two course tests, two assignments on unit plans and lesson plans, a statistics project, and two short practical exercises on nets and probability. Whilst the first year cohort of Samoan PSTs in the Diploma of Education (Primary) totalled about 150, a random sample of this cohort (approx 25 students) was selected as the tutorial group to work with the researcher using an innovative approach to solving problems that emphasizes the processes of asking questions, applying strategies, reflecting, reasoning and communicating in working mathematically and using multiple problem solving strategies such as acting it out, trial and error, modelling, drawing diagrams etc to name a few. To capture PSTs' evolving proficiency, perceptions and reflections about their encounter with this innovation, the selected group, in addition, completed weekly reflection journals to document their evolving experiences. Qualitative data from PSTs' reflection journals was analysed using a grounded theory analysis approach to identify empirically grounded generalizations (categories and concepts within the data) and then based on these, to derive higher level abstract generalizations about PSTs' actions and interactions with a relatively novel way of thinking about teaching and learning mathematics in the Samoan context. The paper provides examples from PSTs' reflection journals to illustrate the PSTs' experiences with a different way of thinking about mathematics. An important issue that emerged from PSTs' reflections was the predominance of the top down approach which is reflective of Samoan culture and practices. Findings have implications for the preparation of future Samoan teachers to cope with curriculum reform that is now evident in the proposed new national primary mathematics curriculum.