A presentation of the following article was given at the Joint Mathematics
Meetings, January 1013, 1996, Orlando, Florida.
Integrating Mathematics and Methods
Susan Beal, Saint Xavier University, Chicago, IL 60655
Mark Klespis, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX 77341
Presented at the Contributed Paper Sessions:
Creating an Active Learning Environment:
Preparing Preservice Teachers.
Integrating Mathematics and Methods
Elementary mathematics courses for prospective teachers are a common offering at post
secondary institutions with the content of these courses commonly dictated by state
requirements. We will discuss today a twosemester integrated
mathematics content and methods course for preservice elementary school teachers
taught at St. Xavier University. What makes this course truly innovative is that
the integration is accomplished by presenting the material in a problemsolving format
in a laboratory context, with students working with manipulative materials as part of a
cooperative group. Such a format allows prospective elementary school teachers to
learn mathematics and learn about the teaching of mathematics in a way they have
not been exposed to previously and in a way which is consistent with the NCTM Curriculum and Evaluation Standards
. Thus, it sets a compelling paradigm for similar courses at other institutions
to examine and emulate. At the very least, it will start, we hope, a dialogue about
the desirability of integrating mathematics and teaching methods into one course.
The course under discussion is conducted in a typical laboratory model. Students
sit in groups of three, four, or possibly five around a table. In the cupboards
surrounding the room are all the materials available for students to use to solve
problems or answer questions posed in the laboratory manual, by the teacher or another student.
These materials include Cuisenaire rods, counters, base ten blocks, weights, balances,
meter sticks, textbook series from various companies, geoboards, etc. as well as
pairs of scissors, paper clips, rubber bands, and so on. Although some materials are
suggested for use in the manual, students are free to use whatever materials they
want. Students are aware of the problems they will be working on during any particular
day, and so are expected to have at least read the appropriate materials prior to the
class meeting. At times there are preparations which must be done at home. For
example, there might be reading assignments, or, after constructing a meter measure
using ten decimeter lengths of construction cardboard, students are asked to find at least
two objects (for each of the following) which are approximately ten centimeters long,
a meter long, or a square decimeter.
Mathematics and Methods for Elementary School Teachers, A Laboratory Approach
, the laboratory manual used in the courses, was written for teachersintraining
and teachersinservice to actively explore the mathematical concepts presented to
students in the elementary school. The mathematical content explored over the two
semester sequence is fairly standard: numeration systems, bases, operations with whole numbers, integers, rational numbers, ratios, proportions, percents, number theory, measurement,
geometry, probability, statistics and functions. Problem solving is infused throughout the curriculum. The courses are each 3 credit hours, but meet four hours
each week because of the amount of material and the approach taken.
Students are expected to participate in their own learning. The participants are
involved in an activity oriented mathematics laboratory where they can explore mathematical
ideas and learn the meanings and properties of the fundamental arithmetic operations. It is assumed that students will work in small groups in a cooperative atmosphere.
Students are expected to help each other, not only within their own group, but should
act as resource people for other groups. Explaining an idea to others helps clarify the idea for the explainer. The learning of mathematics is not a spectator sport,
but a participatory one. It has been shown that small group cooperative learning
is effective with children and adult learners. It is hoped that the student will
adopt small group learning in his/her own classroom.
As previously stated, a variety of concrete materials are used to facilitate the learning
of mathematical ideas. The materials are embodiments of the mathematical ideas.
Students use these materials to "play" with concepts which helps them construct
their mathematical knowledge. We believe that knowledge cannot be presented to students,
it is something they must construct to own. A variety of appropriate materials are
used in the laboratory activities to expose the mathematical ideas being considered
and to emphasize that learning is unique to the learner and using multiple materials
and approaches to the same concept will enrich the classroom environment for all
the students.
To emphasize that mathematics is not limited to school learning, that is, mathematics
has direct meaning in our lives, students are asked to read newspapers and news weeklies
to find the mathematics around them. The underlying assumption to these exercises is that teachers must see the relevance of mathematics to help uncover it for their
students.
Mathematics and Methods for Elementary School Teachers, A Laboratory Approach
integrates mathematics and methods
. Mathematical ideas needed for the development of an elementary school topic are
introduced and developed using the appropriate concrete and pictorial models. This
allows the user to (re)learn the mathematics in a nonthreatening manner. It also
introduces teachersintraining and teachersinservice to materials which will benefit
elementary school students when learning mathematics. Over the course of the two
semesters, students are expected to develop lesson plans, interview elementary school
students, develop a graphing project, participate in a clinical experience and analyze a
textbook series on a particular topic.
It is not intended that the laboratory manual stand alone. A text which emphasizes
the teaching/learning of mathematics can help put the activities from the manual
into perspective, offering background readings in various theories of how children
learn mathematics, the construction of lessons and some activities and exercises to extend
laboratory experiences to elementary school students. Textbooks in use in the elementary
schools are needed for many of the experiences in the manual. These provide opportunities for exploring the mathematics taught throughout the grades, possible sequencing
within mathematical topics, and comparisons between approaches used in various textbooks
as well as adherence to the vision of school mathematics presented by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics
(1989). Readings in professional mathematics journals, such as Arithmetic Teacher
(AT), Teaching Children Mathematics
(TCM), Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School
(MTMS), Mathematics Teacher
(MT), and School Science and Mathematics
(SSM), are a necessary ingredient for professional growth. They enable the reader
to put the mathematical ideas into context of the classroom, reinforce that there
is no one right way to teach mathematics, and allow for a continuation of dialogue
of mathematical ideas and teaching strategies.
The role of the instructor varies throughout the course. At times the instructor
acts as a resource person, helping students answer their own questions, and encouraging
the "playing" with mathematical ideas that characterizes the excitement of learning,
in general, and mathematics, in particular. Sometimes the instructor might lecture
or encourage a class discussion, or help summarize and/or generalize some of the
ideas that were "bantered" about during the class.
There is no typical day to present as the classroom takes on a life determined by
the activity or problem at hand, the students and their questions interacting with
the teacher. For example, in a number theory unit, while working on divisibility,
the question came up as to how do you know if a number is divisible by 11. A single digit
multiple is obvious, but how can other multiplies be explained. Students at a tables
took responsibility for different multiples: three digit, four digit and five digits,
looking for patterns to help in determining a generalization. The students exchanged
work to see if their generalizations could be applied to new data. The class then
worked together to determine a generalization. However, what was not "working" were
numbers like 902 or 8250. We then briefly talked about modular arithmetic to help
tie the discussion together and iron out the wrinkles that tend to bubble up during
an inductive exploration.
Most of the teachersintraining do not have an idea of what students in the elementary
school know or understand. One of the first assignments given to the students is
to interview five elementary school students and ask questions related to: numbers
related to the student, estimating costs, measuring, number sense, attitudes toward
mathematics, reading and writing numerals, counting, magnitude, mental calculations,
and algorithms, both exercises and word "problems." Results from these interviews
which are analyzed and written up by the students, are referred to throughout the two semester
course. For example, when asking the elementary school students to place 1/2 on
a number line, third grade students usually will place 1/2 between the one and the
two on the number line. These results are discussed during the unit on rational numbers
which takes place during the second semester.
A culminating activity to the functions, graphing and statistics unit is a graphing
project. Students choose a question which they want to answer or a position they
would like to take, devise a datacollection experiment which would shed light on
the question or support or refute the position, and collect, organize and present the findings
to the class. They also discuss how they would adapt the activity for use in an
elementary classroom at two distinct grade levels, how they would introduce it to
the students, the need for presenting the information in a graph, and questions they might
ask students in each of the grades about the graphs, as well as possible followup
activities.
An activity which I enjoy is called "Adopt a Solid." The students are asked to choose
a solid from the classroom's supply of models. They are given two weeks to find
out as much as they can about the solid. They should be able to describe it in many
ways. For example, how many faces does it have and what shapes are they? How many vertices
(corners) does it have? How many edges? Etc. They are asked to make a model of
the solid. And find out what role it plays in the real world? (its uses, does it
look like any building?, etc.) To present this information to the class they write
an essay or poem about the solid addressing why the solid is special. The presentations
are usually at the end of the second semester, and are a wonderful way to end the
year.
During the fall of 1990 over 2400 mathematics educators at the University level associated
with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics were queried as to their awareness
of the current mathematics education reform publications, and how the information from publications were integrated into the mathematics methods classes. Of
the 432 responses which were received, twenty percent (88 responses, 20.4%) were
from educators who indicated that they taught an integrated mathematics content and
methods course. If one just considers the elementary responses (rather than elementary and
secondary courses) there were twentyfive percent (56 responses out of 221 responses)
who taught an integrated mathematics and methods course. This is the only indicator
that we could find which told of the percentage of integrated courses taught.
As states move toward more general mathematics requirements for elementary school
teachers, this percentage should drop. We are sorry to see this trend. Integrated
mathematics and methods courses tend to be rich in content, rich in their applications
to classroom teaching, and meaningful in their approach to the learning of mathematics.
Students with a desire to have a concentration or minor in mathematics can pursue
mathematics courses in addition to those which address the mathematics learned/taught in the elementary school curriculum. We agree that elementary school teachers desperately
need more mathematics. But we disagree that changing the requirement of what mathematics
is basic to the teaching in an elementary school is the means to turn teachersintraining onto mathematics.
Dr. Susan Beal
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
St. Xavier University
3700 W. 103rd Street
Chicago, IL 60655
BEAL@vaxd.sxu.edu
Dr. Mark Klespis
Department of Mathematics and Information Sciences
Sam Houston State University
Huntsville, TX 773412206
mth_mlk@shsu.edu
