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The development of preservice teachers’ content knowledge for teaching early algebra
The purpose of this study was to understand the development of preservice teachers’ knowledge for teaching early algebra as a result of an early algebra course and teaching practicum. Preservice teachers enter teacher education with a diversity of school experiences of learning algebra which usually involves a high degree of procedural understanding. This study argues the importance of preservice teachers having the experience and opportunity to develop both conceptual and procedural understanding of the mathematics they will teach. The research was based on a case study, using qualitative methodologies and framed within an interpretive paradigm. It included a group of third year preservice teachers studying for a Bachelor of Education degree in the General Education and Training (GET) band. The early algebra course, known as Maths 2, was designed to develop knowledge for teaching early algebra and to build mathematical proficiency through participation in a professional learning community. The design and content of the course were guided by Ball’s mathematical knowledge for teaching (MKfT) model and the choice of early algebra as functional thinking aligned with the goals of the Revised National Curriculum for Mathematics (RNCS) and the more recent Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) in the mathematics content area: patterns, functions and algebra. The preservice teachers’ development of knowledge for teaching early algebra was identified through their manifestations of knowledge for teaching early algebra. These manifestations were illustrated by preservice teachers’ verbal and written responses from lesson reflections, questionnaires as well as video recordings of selected lessons. Focus group interviews were used to investigate the role of the early algebra course (Maths 2) in developing preservice teachers’ knowledge for teaching early algebra. The findings indicate that preservice teachers developed both common content knowledge (CCK) and specialised content knowledge (SCK) for teaching early algebra. Their responses indicated a growing awareness of the development of their mathematical knowledge for teaching through their own experiences of a richer and connected algebra and through guided support and reflection in the process of learning and teaching.