Education Mathematics Teacher Education
Christine Suurtamm
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 June 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 June 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0085


Research on mathematics teaching and mathematics teacher education has grown substantially since the 1990s. This is due to the research that suggests the enormous impact of the teacher on students’ development of mathematics understanding. Also, beginning in the 1990s we have seen a shift in thinking about mathematics teaching and learning from a traditional approach focused on practicing procedures of doing mathematics to a reform-oriented approach that focuses on developing both procedural and conceptual understanding through problem solving and inquiry into mathematical ideas. As such, the teacher’s role shifts from one of telling and explaining to a more complex one that includes appropriate task selection, facilitation of students actively engaging in mathematical activity, and listening and responding to students’ mathematical thinking. This requires profoundly different skills and knowledge along with new perspectives on what it means to teach and learn mathematics. Thus, the development of mathematics teachers is of utmost importance while, at the same time, it poses several challenges. This article offers a range of work to present the complexities and underlying challenges of mathematics teacher education along with ways in which those challenges have been handled. An overview and a summary of key books and journals in this area is provided, after which examination of mathematics teacher education is organized in a variety of ways. First, as teacher education is an ongoing lifelong process, it is important to look at both pre-service and in-service teacher education and to provide a range of models that have been shown to be effective in each. Another is to look at issues and challenges of teacher education of elementary school teachers as compared to those of secondary school teachers. In examining mathematics teacher education literature, it is evident that particular challenges arise, such as addressing the beliefs that teachers have about mathematics and mathematics teaching and learning as well as how they see themselves as mathematics learners and teachers. Also, implementing reform-oriented practices that include focusing on students’ mathematical thinking often challenges teachers’ mathematical thinking and, thus, a large area of research has focused on understanding and developing teachers’ mathematical knowledge as well as learning the complex practices of teaching. A recent area of research has centered on examining the development of individuals responsible for mathematics teacher education, namely the mathematics educator.

General Overviews

Adler, et al. 2005 describes how research into mathematics teacher education has grown rapidly in the past twenty years. Mathematics education researchers have seen a shift of focus on understanding how students learn mathematics to include an understanding of how teachers teach mathematics. Deborah Ball and others have researched the important role that teachers play in developing students’ mathematical knowledge as well as ways to support that role (Ball 2003). A summary of this work is presented in US National Mathematics Advisory Panel 2008. The research in teacher practice also highlights several challenges that teachers face in teaching mathematics and seeks ways of addressing those challenges. Thus, as presented in Sowder 2007, research seeks to identify professional development models and ways to support the development of new beliefs and knowledge required in mathematics teaching. The work of other researchers provides in-depth understanding of important aspects of professional development, such as Borko, et al. 2000, which examines connections between teacher education programs and teaching, and Jaworski 1998, which deals with practicing teachers engaged in action research.

  • Adler, Jill, Deborah Ball, Konrad Krainer, Fou-Lai Lin, and Jarmila Novotna. 2005. Reflections on an emerging field: Researching mathematics teacher education. Educational Studies in Mathematics 60:359–381.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10649-005-5072-6

    The research presented in this paper was done by five international expert researchers over four years and was presented at the ICME-10 in Copenhagen. It represents a survey of the literature on mathematics teacher education in an effort to identify what research has been done and what research needs to be done in this field.

  • Ball, Deborah L., ed. 2003. Mathematical proficiency for all students: Toward a strategic research and development program in mathematics education. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Institute.

    This report sets an agenda for research and development to promote high proficiency in mathematics in the United States. It presents three areas of focus: the development of mathematics teachers’ knowledge, teaching and learning skills in problem solving and mathematical thinking, and the teaching of algebra. The report highlights the significant role that teachers play and the importance that should be placed on mathematics teacher development.

  • Borko, Hilda, Peressini Domenic, Lew Romagnano, et al. 2000. Teacher education does matter: A situative view of learning to teach secondary mathematics. Educational Psychologist 35.3: 193–206.

    DOI: 10.1207/S15326985EP3503_5

    This article draws on two reform-based mathematics teacher education programs and the study of one teacher to examine the connections between the teacher education program and teaching practice. The article places importance on the compatibility of the teacher education program classroom setting and the teaching classroom setting.

  • Jaworski, Barbara. 1998. Mathematics teacher research: Process, practice and the development of teaching. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education 1.1: 3–31.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1009903013682

    This article describes teachers engaged in action research as a form of professional development. It also makes suggestions about future areas for research.

  • National Mathematics Advisory Panel. 2008. Foundations for success: The final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. Washington, DC: US Department of Education.

    This report is divided into several sections to address mathematics teacher knowledge, teacher education, teacher recruitment and retention, and mathematics specialists. Within each section, current research is briefly summarized and recommendations are made for actions to be taken.

  • Sowder, Judith. 2007. The mathematical education and development of teachers. In Second handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning. Edited by Frank K. Lester, 157–224. Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

    This chapter addresses both pre-service and in-service mathematics teacher development. It discusses the principles to guide professional development, such as what teachers learn and how they learn. It also presents a comprehensive summary of research in this area and offers suggestions as to the next steps needed to be taken in research.

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