Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Dissertation


Mathematics--Study and teaching; Mathematics teachers--Training of;


This study replicates and extends a previous study (Nathan & Petrosino, 2003) that explored the relationship between the content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge of pre-service mathematics teachers.

In that study, Nathan and Petrosino (2003) examined and reported evidence supporting the counterintuitive hypothesis that, in some situations, having a high degree of content knowledge may be associated with the "expert blind spot" (symbol-precedence) in pedagogical content knowledge. Pre-service teachers with various levels of expertise in mathematics subject matter were given a series of mathematics problems and asked to rank order their difficulty. Nathan and Petrosino (2003) reported that, on the average, pre-service teachers with more advanced mathematics education courses and fewer pedagogical content knowledge courses rank ordered the problems in ways that were inconsistent with actual patterns of student performance. This suggested that they had less insight into how students think about and solve these problems. In contrast, students who had taken fewer advanced mathematics courses but more pedagogical content knowledge courses rank ordered the problems in a way that was more consistent with actual student performance.

The present study builds upon this work. Forty pre-service teachers majoring or minoring in mathematics education were surveyed to assess their knowledge of algebra and aspects of their knowledge regarding how to teach algebra. They were asked to rank order Nathan and Petrosino's (2003) problems in the Difficulty Factor Analysis task. Based on their assessment scores, teacher candidates in three categories were selected for follow-up interviews. The categories were: high content knowledge (CK) and symbol-precedence pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), low CK and verbal-precedence PCK, and high CK and verbal-precedence PCK. The importance of both elements (CK and PCK) for pre-service education majors and professional development programs was also investigated, although no causal relationship was implied.

Quantitative results replicated previous findings---students with higher CK showed they used symbol-precedence to teach algebra significantly more than students with lower CK. Follow-up interview data suggest a more complicated relationship between content and pedagogical content knowledge. Those findings revealed that (a) the high CK pre-service teacher with symbol-precedence was knowledge-centered in her teaching perspectives; (b) the low CK pre-service teacher with verbal-precedence was problem-centered in her teaching perspectives; and (c) the high CK pre-service teacher with verbal-precedence was response-based in his teaching perspectives.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

William P. Callahan, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (ix, 153 pages)



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