Mathematics content knowledge of pre-service primary teachers: developing confidence and competence

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Education




Hamlett, B. (2008). Mathematics content knowledge of pre-service primary teachers: developing confidence and competence. In proceedings of the fifth international conference on science mathematics and technology education: beyond cultural boundaries. Curtin University: Perth, Western Australia.


In order to become effective teachers of mathematics in primary schools, pre-service teachers not only need to be competent in the relevant curriculum content, but also able to understand and explain the underlying concepts. Unfortunately, reports from Australia and overseas indicate that many of them enter university education degree courses with low levels of skills and confidence in mathematics. This paper examines the extent to which first year pre-service teachers enrolled in BEd courses in Primary and Early Childhood Education can be considered as mathematically literate in terms of the content of the Western Australian primary mathematics curriculum, and describes an approach to addressing any shortcomings as part of a first year core unit called Becoming Multiliterate. On entry to the unit, pre-service teachers complete a diagnostic assessment task based on relevant outcomes of the Western Australian Outcomes and Standards Framework: Mathematics, and also indicate how confident they feel about their answers. When giving back results, an emphasis is placed on identifying individual strengths and weaknesses, so that current skills are acknowledged, and areas for improvement are targeted. Students complete activities designed to engage and motivate them and ensure that both confidence and competence are considered in skill development. This reflects a CRC approach – Commend what is being done well, Recommend strategies for improvement and Commend subsequent achievements. At the end of the unit, results in the exit assessment and comments in unit evaluations indicate that students not only display higher skill levels but feel more positive about mathematics.

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