Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

A Study of Geometry Content Knowledge of Elementary Preservice Teachers

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

A Study of Geometry Content Knowledge of Elementary Preservice Teachers

Article excerpt

Christiana was excited to go to her first class in university after transferring from the community college of the same city. She was hopeful to be a good teacher. On her way to mathematics course, she remembered her mathematics teachers throughout her education. She regretted that none of them had inspired her to learn mathematics. She wanted to have a new start with this university because she cared about her future students from then. She wanted to learn mathematics that she previously avoided, and she wanted to know everything about teaching mathematics to be the good teacher that she never had.

Christiana is one of the participants who told her story of learning geometry for the study discussed in this manuscript. This article reports a two-phase research study which integrated qualitative and quantitative research methods to study preservice elementary teachers' geometry learning and their geometry content knowledge. The first phase of the study was the qualitative investigation to understand preservice teachers' geometry learning. Integration of results from the study of effective geometry learning experiences of preservice teachers and teacher education literature, the researcher developed series of activities for a mathematics methods course. Those activities used as the intervention for the quasi-experimental quantitative phase with purpose of improving the geometry content knowledge of preservice teachers. This article will report (i) the qualitative investigation on preservice elementary teachers' geometry learning, (ii) the development of the activities as a result of that investigation, and (iii) studying the effect of the activities by a quantitative investigation.


The most commonly accepted definition of teacher knowledge was given by Shulman (1986, 1987), who developed a model of teacher knowledge. His definition is consisted of three types of teacher knowledge: subject matter knowledge (SMK), pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and curriculum knowledge. SMK refers to knowledge base of the content one is teaching, such as mathematics. PCK "goes beyond knowledge of subject matter per se to the dimensions of subject matter knowledge for teaching" (Shulman, 1986, p. 9). PCK is the type of knowledge that distinguishes the work of a teacher from the work of a scientist. The third knowledge type, curriculum knowledge, addresses effective use of curriculum materials and teachers' familiarity with other subjects studied.

Among these knowledge types, subject matter knowledge stands out as a point of interest for teacher education. Brown and Borko (1992) asserted that preservice teachers' limited mathematics content knowledge may hinder their pedagogical training. Also, other studies have shown that lack of subject matter knowledge affects teacher's methods of teaching (e.g. Carpenter, Fennema, Peterson & Carey, 1988; Leinhardt & Smith, 1985). Carpenter and his colleagues (1988) emphasized that subject matter knowledge of a teacher heavily affects the teachers' use of the pedagogical tools. Even though SMK is emphasized greatly in teacher knowledge, the type of mathematics is not just to solve problems mathematically correct (Ball, 1988, 1990a, 1990b; Leinhardt and Smith, 1985; Owens, 1987; Post, Harel, Behr, & Lesh, 1988; Steinberg, Haymore, & Marks, 1985).

In the mathematics education field, Ball and a group of researchers developed mathematical knowledge for teaching (MKT) as following the Shulman's model for teacher knowledge. MKT model addresses how a teacher uses mathematics for teaching while emphasizing the importance of mathematics knowledge in teaching settings (Ball, 2000). According to MKT model, there are six domains of teacher's content knowledge which can be categorized under Shulman's different types of knowledge (Ball, Thames & Phelps, 2008). There are three domains under subject matter knowledge: common content knowledge (CCK, mathematics knowledge not unique to teaching), specialized content knowledge (SCK, mathematics knowledge unique to teaching), and horizon content knowledge (knowledge of mathematics throughout the curriculum). …

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