mathematics; teaching; education; classroom climate
In our school system today there is a collective disinterest and lack of enthusiasm towards mathematics as a whole. This apathy is prevalent as early as elementary school and continues through higher education. It is disheartening that so many students avoid mathematics because of their misconception that it is too difficult and has little value in their future. How well prepared are our teachers to deal with this? I began my research by looking at the past perceptions of mathematics and how the reform movement has changed this perspective. I also looked at the changing standards and how the Principles and Standards have provided a common foundation for our schools to establish a mathematical curriculum. The biggest challenge was to find out what the ideal mathematics classroom looks like. I focused on three main aspects of teaching: the teachers’ attitudes and expectations, knowledge base/preparation, and climate. What a teacher knows is one of the most important influences towards what is presented in class and in turn what the students learn (Fennema & Franke, 1992). Classroom climate plays a very important role in the level of interest a student has in mathematics. When a teacher provides a positive classroom environment students are more apt to explore, question and challenge. If a student sees a purpose in the content they will be more motivated to learn. Small group instruction, heterogeneous grouping, standard based practice, and other strategies play a critical role in a teacher’s classroom. Although, “research cannot and does not identify the right or best way to teach… a combination of research-suggested instructional practices and professional judgment and experience is most likely to produce [high student achievement]” (Grouws & Cebulla, 2000, p. 31). There is no clear answer as to what constitutes sound mathematics pedagogy. Hopefully, with further research, mathematics teaching will move towards what most teachers would consider an “ideal” learning environment.