Pre-Service Elementary Teachers as Mathematical Modelers

Megan H. Wickstrom
Associate Professor
Montana State University

Standards advocate for pre-service K-8 teachers (PSTs) to have the tools to effectively integrate mathematical modeling into their teaching practices. To understand modeling, PSTs must experience the process as learners, but little research exists documenting how PSTs create models and what they draw from the process. The goal of this project is to fulfill this need by developing high-quality modeling experiences for PSTs that allow them to experience modeling as a learner. Our objectives are to 1) design modeling modules that help PSTs understand the process of modeling and 2) iteratively test and refine modules using Design Theory as a guiding framework. Our modules were drawn from national standards, literature on PSTs’ learning of mathematical modeling, and attributes of modeling professional development. In designing and enacting modeling modules, we address the following research questions: 1.How can teacher educators support PSTs’ understanding of attributes of mathematical modeling (task design, modeling process, mathematical practices, and types of models) through the newly created modules?2.How do PSTs’ understanding of modeling attributes develop throughout the implementation of mathematical modeling modules?3.What are the factors that support PSTs’ motivation to engage in mathematical modeling and practices? In this poster presentation, we focus in on question 2 to understand how PSTs’ understanding of modeling develops across a modeling task. Using a decision-modeling matrix, we followed groups of PSTs as they modeled. Results indicate that PSTs need time to explore tasks to understand choices and assumptions that can be made to relate mathematics to their lived experiences. Creating multiple drafts and receiving feedback helped them to bring ideas together, develop and refine mathematical ideas, and create more complex models. There is also evidence that the process challenged PSTs’ understanding of the nature of mathematics and how mathematics can be taught in classrooms. These included understanding that mathematics connects to reality and when we connect mathematics to students’ lived experiences it adds relevance and importance. Taking time to brainstorm ideas, work with others, and provide feedback can be valuable in growing our mathematical thinking. Doing challenging problems is possible and builds self-confidence. From this work, we see that engaging PSTs as modelers helps them grow as mathematicians and expands their understanding of what mathematics is possible in their future classrooms.


Hyunyi Jung, University of Florida