Mathematics to Understand and Critique the World: Reconceiving Mathematics in a Mathematics Content Course for Elementary School Teachers

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Investigations in Mathematics Learning

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There are long-standing and ongoing calls for making mathematics meaningful, relevant, and applicable outside the classroom. In other words, to help students see mathematics as a tool for understanding, analyzing, and changing the world. However, there are also tensions between a focus on classical mathematics goals and a focus on analyzing and understanding social and political issues, which does not always lend itself to focusing on a specific mathematical concept. In this study, we redesigned a mathematics content course for prospective elementary teachers (PTs) to examine whether we could engage PTs in learning both about the classical mathematics content and about understanding and critiquing the world. We examined their learning in both areas and their evolving views of mathematics teaching throughout the course. We found that PTs learned both the mathematics and about the world and in addition they reconceived of mathematics as a tool to make sense of the world. Thus, mathematics content courses can be designed to allow PTs to develop their knowledge in both areas and experience a classroom where teaching math for social justice is a focus.


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