Pre-service Teachers' Knowledge for Teaching Algebra for Equity in the Middle Grades

This project is using Second Life and other technology to structure carefully planned learning experiences for pre-service teachers. Virtual technologies are used to provide pre-service teachers practice in presenting and assessing problem solving activities in a virtual classroom with diverse populations. Researchers hypothesize that technology enriched strategies have the potential to deepen pre-service teachers' understanding and effectiveness in teaching emerging algebra concepts to diverse student populations.

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This research study enriches the education of STEM teachers by using emergent technology to provide pre-service middle school mathematics teachers early teaching experiences that address topics in algebra and equity. In particular, the research team at Texas A&M University Main Campus is using Second Life and other technology to structure carefully planned learning experiences for pre-service teachers. Virtual technologies are used to provide pre-service teachers practice in presenting and assessing problem solving activities in a virtual classroom with diverse populations. Researchers hypothesize that technology enriched strategies have the potential to deepen pre-service teachers' understanding and effectiveness in teaching emerging algebra concepts to diverse student populations. The activities of the study are designed to answer five research questions:

1. How successful are the proposed design strategies for developing technology-rich activities for pre-service teachers?

2. How effective are technology-rich activities in developing pre-service teachers' deep knowledge and understanding of the algebra concepts of variable, change, and operations?

3. How effective are virtual simulations of problem-based teaching of algebra concepts in enhancing pre-service teachers' knowledge and skill in teaching diverse students?

4. What are the trajectories of pre-service teachers' development of knowledge of teaching algebra concepts to diverse students?

5. To what extent can technology-rich activities be effectively implemented in a whole-class setting?

The study is a design experiment using an iterative process to develop prototypes that pre-service teachers employ to become more effective in teaching algebra concepts to diverse student populations. Up to 25 students in a semester are piloting the materials that are continually being refined based on the results of the piloting. Growth in knowledge and practice by students is being measured by assessment instruments and research observations. The Mathematics Teacher Efficacy and Beliefs Instrument is an existing measure. The Knowledge for Teaching Algebra for Equity (KTAE) test is being developed to use as a pre- and posttest in the final phase of the project when students in sections who use and do not use the prototypes are compared. One hundred students are field testing the KTAE. The five member advisory board is being used for guidance and evaluation.

Products from the study will include prototype problem solving and equity activities, a knowledge for teaching algebra for equity (KTAE) assessment, guide to simulation of mathematics students in Second Life, and trajectories of knowledge for teaching algebra for equity. Findings from the study are being disseminated through journals and at professional conferences. This project capitalizes upon the use of state-of-the-art technology to simulate dynamic classroom experiences beyond the scope of prior teacher training programs. Successful implementation could revolutionize teacher training on a broad scale.