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AND TEACHER EDUCATION REFORM

Catherine P. Vistro-Yu

Department of Mathematics, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City

Abstract

This article reports partial results from a study that investigated secondary school

mathematics teachers’ beliefs and attitudes about mathematics. Using Ernest’s (1988) model, it

describes what teachers believe about the nature of mathematics and about the teaching and

learning of mathematics consistent with the instrumentalist, Platonist, and problem solving views

of mathematics. A 47-item Mathematics Attitude Survey and a demographic questionnaire were

administered to 57 high school mathematics teachers. Data analyses used the non-parametric tests

of Friedman, Mann-Whitney, and Kruskal-Wallis and a non-parametric correlation test. Results

revealed that teachers hold strong beliefs about mathematics that are consistent with the problem

solving view. There is a significant difference in the intensity with which public and private

school teachers hold the instrumentalist view of mathematics. There is also a significant difference

in the intensity with which relatively low- and high-scorers in the Licensure Examination for

Teachers hold the instrumentalist view. Implications on how mathematics teacher education

programs can be improved are discussed.

Keywords: teachers’ beliefs, mathematics for classroom, teacher education reform, instrumentalist,

Platonist, problem solving

Introduction

Ernest noted that the practice of teaching mathematics depends on a number of key elements

(1):

• The teacher’s mental contents or schemas, particularly the system of beliefs concerning

mathematics and its teaching and learning;

• The social context of the teaching situation, particularly the constraints and opportunities it

provides; and

• The teacher’s level of thought processes and reflection.

These factors determine the autonomy of the mathematics teacher and subsequently, also the

outcome of teaching innovations, like problem solving that depends on teacher autonomy for their

successful implementation (1). The present study addresses the first key element – the teacher’s

mental contents or schemas including the system of beliefs concerning mathematics and its teaching

and learning. Teachers’ mental contents or schemas include a) mathematics content knowledge, b)

beliefs and attitudes displayed towards an object or a group of objects, and c) belief systems about the

nature of mathematics and the teaching and learning of it. Although mathematics content

knowledge is important, it is not enough to determine teachers’ readiness or capacity to shift to more

desirable teaching approaches. Teaching reforms cannot take place unless teachers’ deeply held

beliefs about mathematics and its teaching and learning change (1).

Theoretical Framework

or several philosophies of mathematics because these constitute their views, attitudes, beliefs, and

preferences about the nature of mathematics as well as the teaching and learning of mathematics.

Ernest distinguished three possible conceptions of mathematics (1, p.2) that relate significantly to a

philosophy of mathematics (2):

facts, rules and skills to be used in the pursuance of some external end. Thus, mathematics is a set

of unrelated but utilitarian rules and facts.

Secondly, there is the Platonist view of mathematics as a static, but unified body of

certain knowledge. Mathematics is discovered not created.

Thirdly, there is the problem solving view of mathematics as a dynamic, continually

expanding field of human creation and invention, a cultural product. Mathematics is a process of

enquiry and coming to know, not a finished product, for its results remain open to revision.

Ernest further associated the above views to corresponding models of teaching in the aspects

of the teacher’s role, the intended outcome of teaching, and the teacher’s use of curricular materials

(1). All these further reflect a corresponding learning model implicitly adhered to by the teacher.

These aspects are embedded in a diagram (cf. 1, p.3) illustrating the specific relationships between

teachers’ beliefs about the nature of mathematics and their models of teaching and learning. Table 1

shows a likely set of significant associations and implications of one’s view about mathematics based

on Ernest’s model (1). This matrix, where the instrumentalist view of mathematics is at the bottom,

appears to model a hierarchy.

As shown by Table 1, a teacher who follows the instrumentalist view of mathematics will

tend to take an instructor’s role in teaching where the main objective is for students to master the

skills needed in mathematics. Performance is important because that is how an instructor can

determine if mastery has been achieved. To ensure this, teachers of this view would strictly follow the

prescribed curriculum that is broken down into a hierarchy of specific skills to be learned. The basis

of knowledge here is rules, not necessarily with understanding. There is an implicit belief that the

curriculum and the corresponding instructional materials offer the best formula for mastering skills;

thus, instructions would tend to be very rigid.

However, teachers who follow the Platonist view of mathematics would tend to take on an

explainer’s role in teaching. They tend to lecture and explain concepts, focusing on mathematical

content. They emphasize students’ understanding of ideas and processes, particularly students’

understanding of the logical relationships of mathematical concepts. The objective of instruction is

for students to have a unified concept of mathematics and a consistency of ideas.

The problem-solving view of mathematics is the highest in the hierarchy because such a view

encourages learning by active construction of one’s knowledge. Teachers who subscribe to this view

see themselves as facilitators of learning. As such, they would prefer to construct or develop their

own materials that would suit the needs and interests of their students. Their instructional objective

is to develop more confident and better problem-solvers. This view of mathematics encourages

creativity and multiple approaches to learning a concept or skill.

Table 1. Teachers’ views about mathematics and their implications based on Ernest’s model (1, pp. 2-4).

Related Research

confirmed one major idea: that mathematics teachers’ beliefs and conceptions, particularly about the

nature of mathematics and about the teaching and learning of mathematics, have an impact on the

type of mathematics instruction they deliver in the classroom. Thompson identified several studies in

mathematics education (3-12) that have indicated that beliefs about mathematics and its teaching

play a significant role in shaping the teachers’ patterns of instructional behavior (2). In particular,

Thompson concluded that the relationship between teachers’ conceptions and their instructional

decisions and behavior is a complex one (8). In her study of three junior high school teachers, she

found that the quality and level of these teachers’ reflection about their beliefs contributed to the

presence or lack of congruence between their beliefs and their instructional behavior, making the said

relationship complex. Additional conceptions about their students and the social and emotional

make-up of the classroom also affect their instructional behavior patterns, perhaps, much more for

some teachers. These conceptions likewise affect teachers’ view about mathematics and its teaching.

Many studies (13-15) have strongly suggested that teachers’ cognitive knowledge of

mathematics directly influence what they do in the classroom and ultimately what their students

learn (16). A critical study of the literature related to teachers’ cognitive knowledge of mathematics,

also reveals that the linkage between teachers’ mathematical knowledge and their instructional

practices is complex. Fennema & Franke proposed a working framework that provides a more

complete picture of how teachers’ mathematical knowledge influences their pedagogical practice (16).

Rather than focusing on teachers’ mathematical knowledge alone, the framework illustrated how

teachers’ mathematical knowledge along with teachers’ knowledge of the learning contexts, of their

students’ understanding of mathematics, and of specific pedagogical techniques, including

mathematics teachers’ beliefs contribute to the way they teach mathematics. For instance, a

classroom teacher knows that a teaching methodology would not elicit the same response from two

different classes principally because of the varying personalities that make up the two classes.

Therefore, the teacher would try to use different methodologies that would suit the classes.

Thompson also reported varying degrees of consistency between mathematics teachers’

espoused beliefs about mathematics and their instructional practices based on studies done by other

researchers (2). For example, (6) reported that strong relationships exist between the knowledge base

of novice teachers and their instructional practice. McGalliard (10) observed a high degree of

consistency between the mathematics conceptions of four senior high school teachers and their

instructional practices in geometry (2). In the same study, McGalliard also reported inconsistencies

between teachers’ professed beliefs and their instructional practice. This cautions researchers in

interpreting results of studies involving teachers’ professed beliefs. It further suggests that meaningful

studies on teachers’ beliefs should include observable data on teachers’ teaching practices.

The purpose of the study was to investigate high school mathematics teachers’ beliefs about

the nature of mathematics and about the teaching and learning of mathematics. Following Ernest’s

framework (1), the study sought to identify the beliefs that teachers hold consistent with the

instrumentalist, Platonist, and the problem solving views of mathematics and to determine the

intensity with which they hold these beliefs. Related to this is the importance of the relationship

between the beliefs held and certain grouping variables used to describe the sample of teachers for the

study. In sum, the study attempted to answer the following questions:

1. What do high school mathematics teachers believe about the nature of mathematics and

about the teaching and learning of mathematics?

2. Do teachers hold much more strongly beliefs that are consistent with one type of view of

mathematics according to Ernest’s framework?

3. Do certain subgroups of teachers hold much more strongly beliefs consistent with the types

of view of mathematics according to Ernest’s framework than other subgroups do?

4. Is there a relationship between any of the grouping variables used to describe the sample of

teachers for the study and the types of view of mathematics according to Ernest’s framework?

Method

Participants. Fifty-seven high school mathematics teachers participated in the study. Of these, 26

teach in public schools spread over 14 regions in the country. The remaining 31 teach in private

sectarian schools that belong to one geographical cluster in Metro Manila. Tables 2a and 2b

summarize the demographic variables used to describe the teachers.

Table 2a. Mean and standard deviation of age, years of teaching, and Licensure Exam score

Score in

Years of

Age Licensure

Teaching

Examination

Number of teachers who a

53 51 37

reported (n)

Mean (x) 32.6 9.4 78.9%

Standard Deviation (σ) 7.4 6.8 4.3

a

One teacher simply reported “passed” for this item.

Table 2b. Frequency and percentage for gender, post-baccalaureate studies, awards, non-teaching jobs,

and in-service training

Variables Frequency %

GENDER

Female 37 70

Male 16 30

Total 53 100

POST-BACCALAUREATE STUDIES

Yes 4 8

No 47 92

Total 51 100

HONORS/AWARDS RECEIVED

Yes 5 10

No 46 90

Total 51 100

NON-TEACHING JOB EXPERIENCE

Yes 9 17

No 43 83

Total 52 100

IN-SERVICE TRAINING

Yes 25 48

No 27 52

Total 52 100

Instrument. In addition to the demographic questionnaire, the main instrument used to determine

teachers’ beliefs about mathematics was a 47-item Mathematics Attitude Survey containing a mixture

of belief and attitude statements. This instrument was used in the Second International Mathematics

Study (SIMS) that was completed in 1982 as part of the effort to learn about the 12-year-old

participants from a cross-cultural sample of 18 countries (17). The same instrument was used to

obtain information about middle school mathematics teachers in a NSF-funded Middle School

Mathematics Project at the University of Georgia in 1989 (18). Thirteen of the items in the survey

have been classified as pertaining to beliefs about the nature of mathematics while 12 of these refer to

beliefs about the teaching and learning of mathematics. Two items were classified as pertaining to

both. The rest of the items are a combination of belief and attitude statements pertaining to other

aspects of mathematics, which will not be discussed in this paper. The classification followed the one

used for SIMS. The survey uses a 5-scale response: strongly disagree, disagree, undecided, agree, and

strongly agree. Numerical values of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, respectively, were assigned to the responses to

facilitate quantitative analyses.

Data Collection and Analyses. The two instruments were administered to the private school teachers

at the beginning of the aforementioned half-day in-service workshop while they were administered to

the public school teachers at the end of a class session.

The 27 items in the Mathematics Attitude Survey were classified further according to the

instrumentalist (I), Platonist (P), and problem-solving (PS) views of mathematics. The researcher

and a mathematics education professor who had done extensive studies on the philosophy of

mathematics education independently classified the items. Initially, the two agreed on the

classification of only 25 items. A 100% agreement was achieved after some discussion. It is

important to note, however, that this categorization forced one to place items in one and only one

category if only to simplify the analysis. The reality is that some of these items may be classified in

two or three categories. For example, the item on logic may be considered important in the problem

solving view. However, because the Platonist view emphasizes logic, it is classified under the

Platonist view of mathematics. Furthermore, since a hierarchical structure has been assumed,

classifying the item at a lower level in the hierarchy does not diminish its importance in the higher

level. Table 3 indicates the classified items.

Table 3. Classification of items according to the type of belief and the type of view of mathematics

Instrument- Problem-

Platonist

alist solving

Nature of Items 5, 7, 8, Items 3, 6, Items 1, 2, 4,

Mathematics 27, 40 12, 14 9, 10, 11

Teaching and Items 27, 40, Item 44 Items 13, 23,

Learning of 43 34, 36, 37,

Mathematics 41, 42, 45,

46, 47

For every item, a weighted average was obtained based on the responses of all 57 teachers. A

weighted average of 3.5 and above is considered as manifesting the belief statement. A weighted

average of 2.5 and below is considered as not manifesting the belief statement. A weighted average

between 2.5 and 3.5 is considered as manifesting indecision about the belief statement. For every

teacher, one score for each of the three views of mathematics was obtained by taking the average of

the responses to the items classified under each type of view. Thus, associated with each teacher are

three scores. Hence, there are 57 scores reported for each type of view of mathematics. The mean of

the 57 scores for each type of view was then obtained.

Each of the demographic variables type of school, age, gender, years of teaching experience, post-

baccalaureate studies, awards, in-service training, non-teaching job, and Licensure Examination score was

assigned a nominal value according to the subgroups determined by the researcher. Some of the

subgroups were natural groupings (e.g. female vs. male, private vs. public school, or have vs. have

not) while the rest were ascertained based either on the available data or on the researcher’s

perception of critical periods or points in the life of or about a teacher. For example, the following

were grouped based on perceived critical periods or points: AGE – (x < 30, 30 ≤ x < 40, x > 40) and

YEARS OF TEACHING – (1 ≤ x ≤ 3, 4 ≤ x ≤ 7, 8 ≤ x ≤ 15, x > 15).

Since the variables involved were discrete, distribution-free (non-parametric) tests were used

to check for significant differences between the means, and to determine significant correlations

between variables (19). The following non-parametric tests were used from the SPSS software: the

Friedman Test, the Mann-Whitney Test, and the Kruskal-Wallis Test for comparison of mean ranks.

Finally, correlations were obtained using the Spearman ρ coefficient. A non-parametric test for the

Spearman ρ coefficient was also used from the SPSS software to check for any significant correlation

between each demographic variable and each type of view of mathematics.

Results

Beliefs about the Nature of Mathematics. The weighted averages showed that teachers believe in the

following aspects of mathematics:

• The importance of rules

• The importance of logic

• The importance of proofs

• That mathematics can be solved in different ways

• That mathematics offers opportunities for creativity

• That mathematics is a dynamic field

• That mathematics allows for the use of trial and error in solving problems

The weighted averages also showed that teachers do not seem to believe in the following

aspects of mathematics:

• That mathematics is made up of unrelated topics

• That new discoveries are not being made in mathematics

It appears that teachers are undecided about the following aspects of mathematics:

• The role of memorization in mathematics.

• That there is little place for originality in mathematics

• That problems can be solved without using rules

Beliefs about the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics. The weighted averages showed that

teachers believe in the following with respect to the teaching and learning of mathematics:

• The importance of memorization in learning mathematics

• The role of tests in learning mathematics

• The importance of teachers’ explanations in the learning of mathematics

• The need for estimation skills

• The importance of the problem-solving process

• The value of using manipulative objects to learn mathematics

• The role of play

• The role of problem solving in the teaching of mathematics

• The value of computers in teaching mathematics

• The value of group work

• The value of writing about mathematics

There are no belief statements about the teaching and learning of mathematics that the

teachers do not believe in or are undecided about.

Comparison Tests on the Type of View of Mathematics. To determine whether teachers tend toward

one type of view of mathematics more than the other two, the Friedman Test was used. In this test, a

teacher’s scores for each of the three views are converted to ranks and a mean rank for each of the

three views is then obtained (19). Table 4 shows the results from this test.

Table 4. Mean, standard deviation, and mean rank of each type of view of mathematics based on

Friedman Test

Instrument- Platonist Problem p-value

alist Solving

Nature of X = 3.20; X = 3.57; X = 3.87;

mathematics σ = 0.67 σ = 0.48 σ = 0.54

Teaching and X = 3.53; X = 4.02; X = 4.39;

learning of σ = 0.81 σ = 0.94 σ = 0.30

mathematics

Overall X = 3.36; X = 3.66; X = 4.20;

σ = 0.61 σ = 0.45 σ = 0.32

Mean Rank 1.40 1.75 2.84 0.000*

*significant at p < 0.02

The p-value obtained from this test is 0.000, which is significant (p < 0.02). Hence, it

implies that teachers significantly tend to hold much more strongly beliefs consistent with the

problem solving view (highest mean rank) than those consistent with the instrumentalist and the

Platonist views of mathematics.

Comparison Tests on Subgroups within Variables. To determine whether subgroups within each

variable differ in the way they view mathematics, the Mann-Whitney Test for 2-independent samples

and the Kruskal-Wallis Test for k-independent samples (k > 2) were performed. Both tests compare

the mean ranks of the subgroups. The Mann-Whitney Test is the non-parametric equivalent of the

t-test while the Kruskal-Wallis Test is the non-parametric equivalent of the one-way ANOVA (20).

Table 5 shows that the tests yielded only 3 significant results. These are for the variables

school and Licensure Exam Score with the instrumentalist view and for the variable years of teaching

with the problem solving view.

Variable Sub-group N Mean Test p-value

Rank (2-tailed)

School (for Public 26 34.94 Mann- .013*

Instrumentalist Whitney

view) Private 31 24.02

Licensure Passed to 22 23.18 Mann- .016*

Exam Score 79.5% Whitney

(for X > 79.5% 16 14.44

Instrumentalist

view)

Years of 1 ≤ x ≤ 3 5 18.10 Kruskal- .024*

Teaching (for Wallis

Problem 4≤x≤7 20 23.40

Solving view) 8 ≤ x ≤ 15 19 33.82

x > 15 7 17.86

*significant at p < 0.05 level

Results from Table 5 can then be stated as follows:

1. Public school teachers significantly tend to hold much more strongly beliefs consistent with the

instrumentalist view of mathematics compared to private school teachers.

2. Teachers who obtained relatively low scores in the Licensure Examination significantly tend to

hold much more strongly beliefs consistent with the instrumentalist view of mathematics

compared to teachers who obtained relatively high scores in the said exam.

3. There is a significant difference in the intensity with which different subgroups for the variable

years of teaching hold beliefs consistent with the problem solving view.

Discussion

If beliefs are to be interpreted as expressions of values, then teachers may value many of the

important aspects of mathematics, foremost of which are logic, proof, and the dynamic aspect of

mathematics. Rules seem to play an important role in mathematics. However, research has shown

that placing too much emphasis on rules may limit higher-order thinking skills, such as creative

thinking (21) and cognitive elaboration (22). Results seem to indicate that teachers generally agree

that mathematics is a coherent body of knowledge and a dynamic field of endeavor.

On the average, teachers seem to be undecided about the role of memorization in

mathematics, the place of originality in mathematics, and the tolerance for problem solving without

rules. The second point appears to be inconsistent with the beliefs that mathematics is a good field

for creative people and that mathematics is a dynamic field. A possible explanation for this lies in the

way teachers perceive mathematics – first, as a school subject and second, as a non-school endeavor.

Research studies have shown these two separate perceptions to exist among children (23) and,

possibly, among practicing teachers (8).

The teachers’ beliefs indicate that they value multiple approaches to the teaching and

learning of mathematics, and that these approaches are wide-range. They include the use of

technology, writing, play, group work, and manipulative objects for the high school level. These

beliefs indicate that teachers have very positive views about using creative and fun approaches to

learning mathematics.

Comparisons and Correlations. The Friedman Test showed that teachers significantly tend to hold

much more strongly the problem solving view of mathematics compared to the instrumentalist and

Platonist views. This is encouraging because the problem solving view is the highest in the hierarchy

of Ernest’s framework. This is a good starting point and, if they persist in these beliefs and carry

them on to actual practice, genuine reforms in mathematics teaching can begin to take shape.

The Mann-Whitney Test, the Kruskal-Wallis Test, and the non-parametric correlation test

for Spearman ρ coefficient indicate crucial areas that need further investigation. The Mann-Whitney

Test results supported by the correlation test showed that public school teachers significantly tend to

hold more strongly the instrumentalist view of mathematics compared to private school teachers.

This result might partly explain why public schools have not been successful in mathematics, as

revealed by results of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study-Repeat (TIMSS-R)

that included 114 public schools out of a total sample of 150 schools all over the Philippines (24).

Teachers who hold more strongly the instrumentalist view tend to teach mathematics as a set of

unrelated topics, focusing more on rules and skills (procedural understanding), rather than on a deep

conceptual understanding of the subject matter. Previous studies on teachers (25) have shown that

procedural understanding without conceptual understanding of mathematics does not last.

Procedural understanding encourages a fragmented type of learning mathematics. Conceptual

understanding, on the other hand, promotes connectivity and networking of concepts, which is much

more useful and needed in mathematics.

The result bolsters the need for training programs aimed at developing deeper understanding

of mathematical concepts among public school teachers. One can deduce from here that part of

helping public school teachers is to help them “weaken” their instrumentalist beliefs about

mathematics, it being the lowest level in the hierarchy. The aim is to help them learn to teach

mathematics much more effectively and correctly, thereby leading them to turn their “problem

solving” beliefs into meaningful actions.

The Mann-Whitney Test results, again supported by the correlation test, also showed that

teachers with relatively low scores in the Licensure Examination significantly hold more strongly

beliefs consistent with the instrumentalist view compared to those who got relatively higher scores in

the same exam.

The results have implications for pre-service teacher education programs. Studies by Ibe (26-

28) have shown that mean scores obtained by prospective high school mathematics teachers in the

Professional Board Examination for Teachers (PBET) (given from 1978 to 1995) and the Licensure

Examination (given beginning in 1996), both in the General Education and Major Subject

components of the exams, fall below the desired score of 50%. This pattern of performance in the

exams reflects the level of competence of mathematics teachers from the cognitive standpoint. The

results from the current study add to these data. Performance in the Licensure Exam also reflects the

affective tendencies of teachers, in this case through their espoused beliefs. Because relatively low-

scorers in the Licensure Exam tend to be more instrumentalist in the way they view mathematics,

they would be less effective teachers of mathematics. Research has shown, e.g. (1), that the

instrumentalist approach may fail to engage students in genuine learning. Teacher educators must

continue to be vigilant and ensure that teacher preparation programs do address the cognitive and

affective needs of future teachers.

The Kruskal-Wallis Test calls attention to seemingly critical periods in teachers’ professional

lives. By looking at the mean ranks of the four subgroups, the result from this test may be

interpreted in the following way: teachers who have taught for 8 to 15 years tend most toward the

problem solving view followed by teachers who have taught for 4 to 7 years. There does not seem to

be a significant difference between the remaining two subgroups. This may mean that it is the first

two subgroups of teachers who have the potential to initiate reforms toward a more problem solving

approach to teaching.

One possible explanation for this is the fact that these are teachers who have been in the

profession beginning in the last half of the 1980s to the first two-thirds of the 1990s. Those years

comprised a vibrant period of reform efforts and innovations in mathematics education locally (the

advent of the SEDP curriculum and the nationwide Engineering and Science Education Project) and

internationally (the launching of the NCTM Curriculum and Evaluation Standards in 1989 and the

Third International Mathematics and Science Study in 1995). These would be teachers who may

have been exposed to these efforts, not necessarily through in-service training (a significance test on

the data reveal no significant differences involving in-service training and years of teaching variables),

but, perhaps, through involvements in the reform efforts themselves. These results need further

investigation. What is it about the 8-15 years and 4-7 years of teaching experience that caused the

significant difference? What other explanations can be offered? What alternative groupings can be

used?

The study showed that high school mathematics teachers hold certain beliefs and views about

mathematics, which have both desirable and undesirable consequences in the way they teach in the

classroom. These beliefs cannot be ignored because of the impact they have on classroom teaching

(8).

This study also showed that there are variables that significantly relate to the intensity with

which teachers view mathematics from the instrumentalist perspective. There is a need, therefore, to

pay attention to the variables type of school and Licensure Examination score. For instance, in the

Licensure Exam, the cut-off point of 80% was based on the available data – the scores ranged from

71% to 87%. Would the test yield the same result if a different kind of grouping were used? Further

studies on this variable have to be done.

The study has also shown that teachers significantly tend to hold more strongly the problem

solving view of mathematics over the other two types of views. Therefore, teacher educators should

assist and support teachers in concretizing these beliefs by undertaking genuine reforms at both the

pre-service and in-service education levels. Teacher education programs must pay attention to both

affective and cognitive issues that surround prospective and practicing teachers.

The study has its limitations that have to be noted. First, the sample of 57 teachers may be

too small especially since non-parametric methods were used for the analyses. Replicate studies over a

larger sample of teachers are highly recommended to confirm the results that have been obtained. In

the Mann-Whitney Test, one pair of variables yielded a (2-tailed) p-value of 0.052, which is slightly

over the largest acceptable p-value of 0.10. One cannot help but wonder if a larger sample would

have yielded significant results.

Second, the Kruskal-Wallis test performed on the years of teaching variable in relation to the

problem solving view offered limited information. Perhaps, more detailed investigations using pairs

of subgroups within the same variable or tests using different subgroups would be very enlightening.

Third, Ernest’s framework (1) is not the only perspective that can be used to investigate

teachers’ beliefs. Ernest’s categorizations alone can be too limiting for the complex nature of our

school system. The political, socioeconomic, and socio-cultural factors that greatly affect schools and

students may not be addressed by Ernest’s framework. There is a need, therefore, to use other

frameworks that might enrich the data that have been gathered from this study. An alternative

framework may be a cross between Ernest’s levels (1) and Green’s (29) three dimensions of belief

systems that describe the way beliefs relate to one another in the system. Green used the dimensions

of primary and derivative beliefs, central or peripheral beliefs, and clustered beliefs.

Fourth, what have been looked at are general views and group results. It would be

interesting to know what certain individuals really believe in and how consistent they are in their

expression of beliefs across different contexts. Case studies of individual teachers are recommended

to follow up on the results here. Future studies can also move toward more general affective issues

influencing the teacher.

Fifth, it must be remembered that what have been gathered are teachers’ espoused beliefs,

which may be translated differently into action. Consistent with McGalliard’s recommendation (10),

studies on how teachers translate these beliefs into their teaching are also recommended. In what

ways can we help teachers so that their actions are consistent with their espoused beliefs? Studies that

answer this question are very useful in the teacher education field.

References

1. P. Ernest, “The impact of beliefs on the teaching of mathematics”, paper prepared for ICME VI,

Budapest, Hungary, July 1988, pp.1-4.

2. A. G. Thompson, “Teachers’ beliefs and conceptions: A synthesis of the research”, in Handbook

of Research on Mathematics Teaching and Learning, D. A. Grouws, Ed., (Macmillan, New York,

1992), pp. 127 - 146.

3. B. J. Dougherty, “Influences of teacher cognitive/conceptual levels on problem-solving

instruction”, in G. Booker et al., Eds., Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on the

Psychology of Mathematics Education, (International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics

Education, Oaxtepec, Mexico, 1990), pp. 119 – 126.

4. R. Marks, Those who appreciate: The mathematician as secondary teacher. A case study of Joe, a

beginning mathematics teacher, (Stanford University School of Education, Stanford, CA, 1987).

5. R. Kesler, Jr., doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia, Athens (1985).

6. R. Steinberg, J. Haymore, R. Marks, paper presented at the annual meeting of the American

Educational Research Association, San Francisco, April 1985.

7. C. E. Grant, doctoral dissertation, University of North Dakota (1984); Dissertation Abstracts

International, 46, DA8507627 (1984).

8. A. Thompson, Educational Studies in Mathematics 15, 105 – 127 (1984).

9. S. Lerman, International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology 14 (1),

69 –66 (1983).

10. W. A. McGalliard, Jr., doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia (1982); Dissertation Abstracts

International, 44, 1364A (1983).

11. T. Kuhs, doctoral dissertation, Michigan State University, East Lansing (1980).

12. J. C. Shroyer, paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research

Association, Toronto (1978, March).

13. D. L. Ball, Unlearning to teach mathematics (Issue Paper 88-1), (Michigan State University,

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Acknowledgements

This paper was taken from a research funded by the Celestino M. Dizon Endowed Professorial

Chair and the Senator Gil J. Puyat Endowed Professorial Chair, Ateneo de Manila University, 2000 –

2001. The author also wishes to acknowledge Ms. Josephine Chua of the Ateneo Mathematics

Department for her invaluable assistance and insights.

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