The Mathematical Education of Elementary Teachers

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

This study is investigating the mathematics taught to and learned by future elementary teachers in their undergraduate teacher preparation programs. The study includes assessments of future teachers’ knowledge, analysis of textbooks used , surveys of instructors, and analysis of related policies.


This study is collecting data at 70 post-secondary institutions in four states.

Research Design: 

The research design for this project is longitudinal and cross-sectional, and is designed to generate evidence which is descriptive (observation and case study) and causal (statistical modeling). Multiple sections of the same class at different institutions are used as comparative conditions. This project collects original data using: school records/policy documents; assessments of learning/achievement tests; personal and videography observation; paper and pencil self completion questionnaires; and face-to-face and telephone informal interviews. The project is analyzing student and instructor data using hierarchical linear modeling to develop models to explain variation in and across classes. The project is analyzing observational data using Transana to develop analytical memos and coding schemes.


Overall, students (pre-service teachers) participating in the study showed significant gains in knowledge of mathematics (0.7 effect size) from pre to post test during the semester of the study. Significant predictors of their achievement include using a textbook designed for such a class and engaging directly with mathematical problems rather than attending lectures.

Publications & Presentations: 

Lo, J.-J., & McCrory, R. (2009). Proof and proving in a mathematics course for prospective elementary teachers. Paper to appear in the proceedings of the International Committee on Mathematics Instruction, study group 19.

Francis, A. P., Yu, P., Francis, J., & McCrory, R. (2009). Using semiotics to teach rational numbers to prospective elementary school teachers. Proceedings of the Psychology of Mathematics Edcation North America (PME-NA) Conference, Atlanta, GA.

Güçler, B., Park, J., & McCrory, R. (2009). Affordances of visual representations: The case of fraction multiplication. Proceedings of the Psychology of Mathematics Education North America (PME-NA) Conference, Atlanta, GA.

Lo, J.-J., McCrory, R., & Young, S. (2009). Developing prospective teachers' knowledge of elementary mathematics: A case of fraction division. Proceedings of the Psychology of Mathematics Education North America (PME-NA) Conference, Atlanta, GA.

Lo, J.-J., & Francis, A. P., McCrory, R. (Submitted). Taiwanese and U.S. prospective elementary teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching: An exploratory study. Learning and Individual Differences.

Lo, J.-J., Kim, R. Y., & McCrory, R. (In revision). Teaching assistants' uses of written curriculum in enacting mathematics lessons for prespective elementary teachers. Mathematical Thinking and Learning.

McCrory, R., Zhang, C., Francis, A. P., & Young, S. (2009). Factors in the achievement of preservice elementary teachers in mathematics classes. Proceedings of the Psychology of Mathematics Education North America (PME-NA) Conference, Atlanta, GA.

McCrory, R. (2006). Mathematicians and mathematics textbooks for prospective elementary teachers. Notices of the AMS, 53(1), 20-29.