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Eastern Cape teachers’ beliefs of the nature of mathematics: Implications for the introduction of in-service mathematical literacy programmes for teachers

By Lyn Webb and Paul Webb


Various studies have shown that what teachers consider to be optimal ways of teaching mathematics is influenced by their beliefs about the nature of mathematics, and that it is advantageous to determine teachers’ conceptions of the nature of mathematics before developing curriculum interventions. With the imminent introduction of Mathematical Literacy in the FET phase in South Africa this study provides a snapshot of beliefs of teachers in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Various methods were employed to stimulate teachers to both reflect on their beliefs and to make them explicit. A questionnaire was administered to 339 in-service teachers in urban and rural areas of the Eastern Cape. A sample of ninety-five of these teachers completed a second questionnaire based on videotapes of lessons recorded during the TIMSS (1995) study that they had viewed. These teachers also ranked their own teaching on a continuum ranging from traditional to constructivist approaches and provided explanations for their ranking. A further sub-sample of thirty-six teachers participated in individual interviews, which explored their perceptions of the nature of mathematics and their own teaching practice. In order to investigate whether these beliefs were mirrored in practice, four teachers were observed and videotaped in their classrooms. The data generated by this study suggest that the participating teachers’ espoused beliefs of the nature of mathematics tended to be innovative, and correlated with innovative views of teaching and learning; however these views were often not reflected in their practice. The implications that the apparent inability of teachers to translate their beliefs into practice have for the introduction of a contextual, problem-based Mathematical Literacy curriculum for teachers is explored

Topics: beliefs, Mathematics, QA1-939
Publisher: AOSIS
Year: 2004
DOI identifier: 10.4102/pythagoras.v0i60.122
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