chapter  10
30 Pages

Making Sense of Mathematics Teaching in Real Contexts

WithBetsy McNeal

My interest in how students' learning is constructed in particular ways in particular communities (McNeal, 1991,1995) has brought me to thinking about teaching as well. I am convinced that students construct mathematical ideas in the course of interactions with their teacher and classmates, and so my work as a teacher educator has focused on encouraging prospective teachers to listen to their students' mathematical thinking. In 6 years of working with prospective elementary teachers, however, I have repeatedly ob­ served that beginning teachers who seem determined to focus on children's mathematics find this difficult to do under the pressures of practical concerns such as proficiency tests, expectations of parents, colleagues, administrators, evaluations, and scheduling. Eisenhart et al. (1993) offered a case study of one student teacher who shifted from teaching for conceptual to procedural knowledge due to mixed messages from the teacher education program and placement school. This clearly must have affected this student teacher's ability to develop an understanding of and a focus on children's mathematics. Working with an experienced and excellent mathematics teacher has provided me with an even more pressing example that tensions can exist for any teacher between addressing practical concerns and focusing on children's mathematics.