Secondary mathematics teachers' disposition towards challenge and its impact on teaching practice

Yirah Mariana Valverde Flores, University of Texas at El Paso


This two phase, sequential exploratory study focused on mathematics teachers’ disposition toward challenge and its impact in their teaching practice and students’ performance. This heavily qualitative study employed a mixed methodology to answer the following guiding research question: how do teachers’ disposition towards challenge affect teaching practice and what is the nature of that relationship? During the initial phase (quantitative), two teachers who were enrolled in a graduate mathematics at a University in the southwestern U.S. were selected for the study (N=5). The goal of the class was to increase the participants’ mathematical knowledge for teaching. The purposive selection was based on the contrasting nature of the participants’ self-reported cognitive, affective, and conative dispositions and their students’ perception about the teachers using the Mathematics Dispositional Functions Inventory (MDFI) instrument (Beyers, 2011). Participants selected for phase II (mixed methods) had a previously acquired disposition toward challenge but a developing mathematical knowledge for teaching. The second phase of the study (qualitative) consisted of the investigation of the participants’ mathematical knowledge for teaching (Ball et al., 2008) and how it impacted their disposition toward challenge. Sources of data collection included: 1) pre and post problem solving interviews; 2) lesson planning and delivery, 2) classroom observations, 3) student work, and 4) teachers’ self-reflections. Student work of the selected teachers was analyzed to examine the relationship between teachers’ acceptance/ avoidance of challenge and student performance as one of the indicator of teaching practice. Meaning coding and linguistic analysis were utilized as primary methods of analyzing qualitative data collected during the second phase of the study. Major finding of the study suggests that the participants’ disposition toward challenge was affected by their mathematical knowledge for teaching. Considering habitual nature of the disposition, teachers’ disposition toward challenge impacted the expectations that they held for their students. It was also observed that it impacted their tendency to be reflective teachers and their tendency to “cover-up” mathematical errors. Further research is suggested to uncover how these results compare to other countries, especially those who outperform American students in mathematics. This study contributes to the newly emerging discussion on mathematics teachers’ disposition and provokes new questions as we attempt to understand the complexities involved in conceptualizing this construct as a measure of teacher effectiveness.

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Valverde Flores, Yirah Mariana, "Secondary mathematics teachers' disposition towards challenge and its impact on teaching practice" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10118175.