Prospective primary teachers' beliefs about mathematics

Year: 2012

Author: Keegan, Brooke, Bobis, Janette

Type of paper: Abstract refereed



This study explored the effectiveness of an intervention designed to enhance the mathematical content knowledge and nurture more positive beliefs towards mathematics and the teaching of mathematics of pre-service primary teachers in the first year of their teacher education program.


A qualitative case study approach was employed. Five pre-service primary teachers were interviewed and constructed concept maps on two occasions—once prior to the start of their mathematics content-focused course and again several weeks into the course. Observations of two tutorials for each participant focused on behaviours that evince certain beliefs (e.g. “I'm not good at mathematics”) including their involvement in class-level discussions and on-task behaviour.


This report focuses on the results of two case study participants. Findings showed that beliefs about mathematics were largely influenced by past school experiences and participants' confidence in their level of content knowledge. Through the intervention, these beliefs were challenged and shifts in beliefs were evident.  It was revealed that while the content knowledge of the lecturers and tutors in the course was critical to affect these shifts, they must also have strong pedagogical knowledge and be able to develop a positive rapport with students.


The study revealed that interventions of this nature can help transform negative beliefs toward mathematics. It also has implications for the careful selection of tutors to help redress the stereo-typed images of mathematics teachers held by many prospective primary teachers.