Pre-service elementary teachers' affective dispositions toward mathematics

Benjamin R McDermott, University of Texas at El Paso


The purpose of this study was to measure and report pre-service elementary teachers’ affective domain of productive disposition toward mathematics during the semester they were enrolled in a reform-based mathematics methods course. The study attempted to observe and report dynamic and enduring aspects of disposition as well as the perceived reasons for any changes, or lack thereof, in disposition. The rationale for focusing on disposition is related to Kilpatrick, Swafford, and Findell’s (2001) inclusion of productive disposition as one of the five interdependent strands of the mathematical proficiency conceptual framework. Furthermore, it has been argued that dispositions develop at very early stages in a child’s life and therefore it is important that teachers at the elementary level be aware of this phenomenon, which is why pre-service elementary teachers were selected for this study. The research questions were as follows: 1) What are pre-service teachers’ reported affective dispositions toward mathematics? 2) Do pre-service teachers’ reported affective dispositions toward mathematics change during the semester they are enrolled in a reform-based mathematics methods course? 3a) What are the reported changes in affective disposition characteristics and what do participants perceive as contributing to the dynamic nature of disposition? 3b) What are the reported affective disposition characteristics that do not change and what do participants perceive as contributing to the enduring nature of disposition? This study involved 104 survey participants, 10 interviewees, and 4 case studies. It employed a modified mixed methods research design, labeled concurrent collection sequential analysis, and a synthesized theoretical framework involving productive disposition, affective disposition, and positioning theory. Participants responded to a series of open-ended novel metaphor prompts and a sub-sample of those participants was selected for one-on-one semi-structured interviews. A start list coding scheme was developed from the characteristics of affective disposition toward mathematics and was used to engage in typological analysis of the metaphor responses. The coded responses were quantitized and subjected to the nonparametric chi-square goodness-of-fit test to detect statistical change in disposition. A specific form of narrative analysis was employed to elicit perceived reasons for enduring or dynamic aspects of affective disposition toward mathematics. The majority of pre-service elementary teachers in this study reported a productive disposition toward mathematics. As a group, their responses indicated an improvement of disposition over the course of the semester. However, the majority of individual participants did not report improved disposition, but rather an enduring productive disposition. Disposition was primarily influenced by the accumulation of past experiences. This study will contribute to research being done to identify over time particular aspects of productive disposition for students, instructors, and students aspiring to become instructors. The results will also contribute to research using metaphor as a data collection strategy more broadly as well as a possible intervention technique for productive disposition, specifically.

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Elementary education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

McDermott, Benjamin R, "Pre-service elementary teachers' affective dispositions toward mathematics" (2015). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3708554.