I have been reading the various posts that discuss the appropriate training for mathematics teachers at both the elementary and secondary levels. My university, the University of New Brunswick in Canada, had previously required elementary candidates to take 4 full semester courses in math/math education, but all taught by education professors. The first two courses were designed to teach mathematics to these students in the way that we would like them to teach. Topics covered included some geometry, some probability, some number theory and examination of problem solving strategies typically used in mathematics as well as a conceptual understanding of the mathematics underlying the whole numbers, fractions and decimals they would be teaching. The second two courses included a methods course which was topic based (e.g. time on multiplication, on addition, etc.) as well as a methods course which was issues based (e.g. assessment, critical examination of available resources, uses of technology in teaching mathematics, etc.).The topic based course also included a field based component with selected local teachers where the students, in pairs, taught young students.
This had been the pattern for the last 20 years. What we found was that quite a number of students were very upset in the first two courses. In fact, several said that they would have preferred a calculus requirement since you just had to do what they said and not always be "thinking". But when I gathered anonymous information at the end of the 4 years, virtually every student felt that the experience had made an essential difference. They needed to see math taught in a different way before they could do it. In theory, this could have been done in the math department, but this only works if there is a will there to teach that way.
Interestingly enough, we have moved to a new program where students will only be required to do one methods course and no content courses in math at all. My colleagues tell me that a liberal arts background is enough.
What do you think is a reasonable amount and type of training for these students?
Marian Small Faculty of Education University of New Brunswick Bag Service #45333 Fredericton, N.B. E3B 6E3 CANADA