Primary student teachers' understanding of mathematics and its teaching

Tony Brown, Olwen Mcnamara, Una Hanley, Liz Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article reports on research into primary student teachers' understanding of mathematics and its teaching undertaken at the Manchester Metropolitan University and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The research set out to investigate the ways in which non-specialist student teachers conceptualise mathematics and its teaching and how their views evolve as they progress through an initial training course. The study has shown how the mathematical understanding of such students is, in the first instance, embedded in a strongly affective account of their own mathematical experiences in schools, where mathematics was often seen as difficult and threatening. College training successfully nurtures a more positive attitude to mathematics as a subject, albeit couched in a pedagogically oriented frame. In later stages of training however, their conceptions of mathematics and its teaching are subsumed within the organisational concerns of placement schools and school experience tutors, and shaped by commercial schemes. It is suggested that alternative conceptions of mathematics assumed at different stages of this training appear incommensurable. A theoretical framework is offered as an approach to reconciling this conflict. This demonstrates how three potential dichotomies, phenomenologicallofficial versions of mathematics, discovery/transmission conceptions of mathematics teaching, and perceptual/structural understandings of the mathematics teacher's task can be seen as productive dualities harnessing both qualitative and quantitative perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-322
Number of pages23
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1999


Dive into the research topics of 'Primary student teachers' understanding of mathematics and its teaching'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this