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Presentation 3I4. Learning to Teach Statistics through Project Work

Renuka Vithal (South Africa)


Presentation Abstract

In the past few years that I have introduced project work in mathematics teacher education courses as a means for realising a social, cultural, political approach to the mathematics curriculum. Such an approach engages in a very direct way the relationship between mathematics and society through ideas found in several relatively recent developments in mathematics education. These developments, which include concerns raised in ethnomathematics, critical mathematics education, as well as in issues of race, class, gender and other kinds of diversity, provide natural opportunities for learning about data handling in the context of project activities. In this paper I discuss three different approaches that I have explored in the teacher education courses that I offer to prospective primary teachers taking mathematics education as a major. I will also reflect on the outcomes of these approaches, particularly as they are observed during school based teaching practice when the student teachers attempt to realise such ideas. It is possible to distinguish firstly a "theoretical, imagined practice;" seemingly a conventional approach where student teachers develop "hypothetical" project work themes that include tasks and activities requiring data handling and the application of statistical knowledge and skills. Second, it is possible to refer to "actual teacher-learner practice;" an approach in which students teachers actually engage in project work in the university-based curriculum. That is, student teachers act as learners engaging a theme of direct interest to them, and teacher educators take on the role of "teacher-facilitator-supervisors" directing these teacher-learners toward activities requiring data handling opportunities. Third, I refer to "arranged pedagogical practice" to describe an approach in which student teachers learn about project work by deliberately reorganizing a mathematics classroom in a school. In this situation, they try out, with pupils, ideas for a project in which activities requiring statistics may emerge. These approaches are not mutually exclusive though it is possible that a teacher education programme may lean more toward one than another or combine them in various ways. Each of these will be discussed with reference to examples of projects done during the coursework.


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