Title page for ETD etd-02152012-115118

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Botha, Johanna Jacoba
URN etd-02152012-115118
Document Title Exploring mathematical literacy : the relationship between teachersí knowledge and beliefs and their instructional practices
Degree PhD
Department Science, Mathematics and Technology Education
Advisor Name Title
Dr G H Stols Co-Supervisor
Prof J G Maree Committee Chair
  • curriculum
  • mathematical literacy
  • pedagogical content knowledge
  • beliefs
  • mathematical content knowledge
  • learning environment
  • instructional practice
  • tasks
  • discourse;
  • teachers
  • learners
Date 2012-04-15
Availability unrestricted
South Africa is the first country in the world to offer Mathematical Literacy as a school subject. This subject was introduced in 2006 as an alternative to Mathematics in the Further Education and Training band. The purpose of this subject is to provide learners with an awareness and understanding of the role that mathematics plays in the modern world, but also with opportunities to engage in real-life problems in different contexts. A problem is the beliefs some people in and outside the classroom have regarding this subject such as teachers believing ML is the dumping ground for mathematics underperformers (Mbekwa, 2007). Another problem is the belief of some principals that any nonmathematics teacher can teach ML. In practice there is Mathematics teachers who teach ML in the same way that they teach Mathematics; non-Mathematics teachers who in many cases lack the necessary mathematical content knowledge and skills to teach ML competently; and Mathematics teachers who adapted their practices to teach ML using different approaches than those required for teaching Mathematics. Limited in-depth research has been done on the ML teachers, what they believe and what knowledge is required to teach this subject effectively and proficiently.

The purpose of this study is to investigate the way in which ML is taught in a limited number of classrooms with the view to exploring the relationship between ML teachersí knowledge and beliefs and their instructional practices. According to Artzt, Armour-Thomas and Curcio (2008) the instructional practice of the teacher plays out in the classroom where teachersí goals, knowledge and beliefs serve as the driving force behind their instructional efforts to guide and mentor learners in their search for knowledge. To accomplish this aim, an in-depth case study was conducted to explore the nature of teachersí knowledge and beliefs about ML as manifested in their instructional practices. A qualitative research approach was used in which observations and interviews served as data collection techniques enabling me to interpret the reality as I became part of the lives of the teachers.

My study revealed that there is a dynamic but complex relationship between ML teachersí knowledge and beliefs and their instructional practices. The teachersí knowledge, but not their stated beliefs were reflected in their instructional practices. Conversely, in one case, the teacherís instructional practice also had a positive influence on her knowledge and beliefs. It was further revealed that mathematics teacher training and teaching experience played a significant role in the productivity of the teachersí practices. The findings suggest that although mathematical content knowledge is required to develop PCK, it is teaching experience that plays a crucial role in the development of teachersí PCK.

Although the studyís results cannot be generalised due to the small sample, I believe that the findings concerning the value of teachersí knowledge and the contradictions between their stated beliefs and practices could possibly contribute to teacher training. Curriculum decision-makers should realise that the teaching of ML requires specially trained, competent, dedicated teachers who value the subject. This exploratory study concludes with recommendations for further research.

© 2011 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Botha JJ 2011, Exploring mathematical literacy : the relationship between teachersí knowledge and beliefs and their instructional practices, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-02152012-115118 / >


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