Helping Student Teachers Improve Math Instruction
By BETH HARPAZ
When teachers have negative perceptions about their own experiences learning math, it can impact their effectiveness in the classroom. Professor Rupam Saran, chairperson of Multicultural Early Childhood and Elementary Education at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, examined how a pedagogical process called “lesson study” not only improves teacher effectiveness and student achievement, but also helps change teachers’ attitudes toward their own “math identities.” Her research appears in the Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching, and Research.
Saran surveyed and interviewed a group of student teachers at various points in an academic year as they worked in urban elementary schools under the supervision of their college program. She found that 10 of them said “they did not like mathematics,” and “lacked confidence in teaching mathematics.”
The student teachers were either Caribbean or African-American, and Saran attributed their negative perceptions in part to “prior socializing experiences” and “racial stereotypes.” The way individuals relate to math “is deeply influenced by society’s perception and stereotyping of minority students’ math competencies,” Saran wrote.
An important part of the group’s pre-service year was lesson study, a collaborative process of planning lessons, analyzing student work to understand why and how children make mistakes, then building on those insights to re-teach the concepts. As their mastery of math and effectiveness in the classroom improved, Saran reported, they also changed “their mathematical identities and beliefs about teaching mathematics in positive ways” and their “negative perception of their mathematics ability” gradually faded.
After one semester, a student teacher reflected, “I know how my students learn. I find it easy to examine their work for mistakes and I can discuss their problems or mistakes better.” Another said: “Now teaching math is easy to me. I know what to do.”
Rupam Saran (Associate Professor, Education) | Profile 1
Colleges and Schools
Medgar Evers College
“Beyond Stereotypes: Minority Children of Immigrants in Urban Schools “ (Sense Publishers)