Elementary mathematics teaching in India's Jharkhand: Mathematical knowledge and social status

James Padinjarekkara, Marquette University

Abstract

This study investigates elementary school teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching in the Indian state of Jharkhand. The participants were a purposively selected sample of grades 4-6 mathematics teachers in different categories of schools. Quantitative data were collected from 188 teachers using a multiple choice test of content knowledge for teaching mathematics and a survey of the teachers' backgrounds, instructional contexts, practices, and beliefs. Four teachers from diverse types of schools, two each having low and high scores on the test, participated in the qualitative phase of the study that included classroom observations, in-depth interviews, and analyses of curricular artifacts. Statistical analyses explored the distribution of mathematical knowledge for teaching in different kinds of schools and the correlation of the teachers' background descriptors with their scores on the test. As these analyses led to two counter-intuitive findings about mathematical knowledge for teaching--its low correlation with teaching experience, and its large negative correlation with the completion of a program in elementary teacher education--the preparation, induction, and professional lives of elementary mathematics teachers were also explored. A range of data similar to that for the four cases was subsequently collected from the mathematics educators of two elementary teacher education colleges. Analysis and interpretation of qualitative data used constant comparative methods, and grounded theory was developed. The analysis revealed that the participants' mathematical knowledge for teaching was generally weak. The teachers' knowledge was found to be related to their social and educational backgrounds. The teachers with the most robust knowledge taught the more affluent students. Sound content knowledge was found to be a prerequisite for having mathematical knowledge for teaching. Strong mathematical knowledge for teaching surfaced as necessary, but not sufficient for teaching mathematics for understanding. The social contexts of the school, assessment practices, and textbooks profoundly affected the teachers' performance. The most influential preparation for teaching seems to take place during the prospective teachers' own schooling. The analyses of current school teaching and teacher education practices suggest that the near future prospects for improving mathematics instruction in Jharkhand's schools are rather bleak. Finally, the study ends with a discussion of the broader implications for school reform in India.

Recommended Citation

James Padinjarekkara, "Elementary mathematics teaching in India's Jharkhand: Mathematical knowledge and social status" (January 1, 2007). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI3298509.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI3298509

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