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Addressing Math Content Knowledge and Math Anxiety in a Teacher Education Program

Dr. Pamela Brittain 

Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Ontario Institute for Studies in Education University of Toronto

Abstract: This study is an in-depth mixed methods study of a math content knowledge (MCK) course from a large scale, urban university’s faculty of education teacher program. The focus of this research is to describe the effect of this course on the math content knowledge and math anxiety levels of elementary teacher candidates. The participants were the course creators, the instructors and the teacher candidates. Quantitative data, in the form of pre- and post-course diagnostic tests and anxiety scales (collected by the course creators), and qualitative interviews were assessed to answer the research questions.

This research found that the course had a significant effect on both improving the math content knowledge and decreasing the math anxiety levels of the teacher candidates enrolled in the course. It also helped the teacher candidates to improve their self-efficacy and confidence with mathematics. From an administrative perspective, the course seems to have met the expectations that teacher candidates improve their scores on the diagnostic tests and the teacher candidates interviewed for this study found a direct benefit from the course. In addition, there were suggestions for improvement in the areas of instructor selection, breadth and depth of topics covered in the course, and the creation of targeted course materials.

Implications of this research indicate that this course could be applied to other faculties of education, that it could be improved to more closely align with the newly implemented provincial math proficiency testing, and that there are some suggestions for expanding the effectiveness of the course. Further areas of research are also provided.