Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Article: Using the history of mathematics to induce changes in preservice teachers' beliefs and attitudes

Currently, I have been reading articles on history of mathematics and teachers' beliefs and attitudes. I will continue to blog about articles I read. I hope someone may find something interesting here - but must admit that I blog partly for my own sake, as a way of pushing me to try to state the essence of the articles I'm reading...

Charalambos, Panaoura and Philippou: Using the history of mathematics to induce changes in preservice teachers' beliefs and attitudes: insights from evaluating a teacher education program, Educational studies in mathematics (2009) 71: 161-180.

In this article, the authors have tried to trace and describe the development of 94 preservice teachers' beliefs and attitudes over a period of 2 years, during which they took two courses in history of mathematics.

It turned out that the students' formalist beliefs were intensified, while their Platonic and experimental beliefs were weakened. The students' attitudes towards mathematics got less positive during the period.

This does not, of course, mean that history of mathematics will necessarily have such dire consequences. Rather, it points to the importance of the contents and way of teaching. In this study, some students (in interviews) says that they are unable to draw connections between the contents of the courses and the mathematical content they need in their teaching career. Moreover, they found the mathematics difficult, which made the experience unpleasant. The value of seeing that mathematicians of the past had difficulties as well, was not seen. And importantly, the students did not see why the teachers had chosen the content - they were not told what the goals of the course were.

I would also have been interested to read about the students' attitudes towards the use of history of mathematics in their own teaching, but this is not covered in the article.

Anyway, the article is an interesting example of an evaluation that does not give the results one wished. It would be interesting to hear later if this evaluation lead to changes in the courses and whether further evaluations will be done later.

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