Vol. 22 No. 1 (2012)

The Roles They Play: Prospective Elementary Teachers and a Problem-Solving Task

Published 2015-05-01


The transition from learner to teacher of mathematics is often a difficult one for prospective elementary teachers to negotiate. Learning to teach necessitates the opportunity to practice the discourse of teacher of mathematics. The undergraduate mathematics content classroom provides a setting for prospective teachers to practice the discourse of teacher through their interactions with each other while also learning the mathematical concepts presented in class. This qualitative study sought to examine what roles prospective teachers adopt while engaged in a cooperative problem-solving task. Discourse analysis was applied to analyze the verbal interactions between three participants in a mathematics content course. Key disruptions in the conversation revealed instances of the fluid relationship between learner and teacher of mathematics in the roles they adopted while solving an application problem: self as learner-in-teacher, collaborator as learner-in-teacher, and unlikely learner-in-teacher. The presence of this fluid relationship led to the proposal of a model of learner-in-teacher-in-learner of mathematics. This proposed model suggests that prospective teachers have the opportunity to learn how to teach in and through each other when given the opportunity to engage in dialogue with one another.