Former Engineers Teaching Mathematics: Perceptions of Mathematical Understanding

Conference: The European Conference on Education (ECE2022)
Title: Former Engineers Teaching Mathematics: Perceptions of Mathematical Understanding
Stream: Teaching Experiences, Pedagogy, Practice & Praxis
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Yael Furman-Shaharabani, ORT Braude College, Israel
Ira Raveh, ORT Braude College, Israel


Engineers sometimes choose teaching mathematics as a second career. Studies of mathematics teaching indicated that teachers’ perceptions are strongly related to their practice. Engineers who became teachers are distinct because of their previous experience in applied mathematics in the context of engineering.

The focus of this qualitative research is mathematical understanding perceptions of eight former engineers teaching mathematics. Semi-structured interviews were conducted 1-6 years after the conclusion of the teacher preparation program.

The analysis demonstrated that mathematical understanding is highly appreciated by the participants. All of them spontaneously viewed understanding as a main teaching goal. Four of them noted understanding while addressing mathematical proofs. They indicated the need to profoundly study proofs to promote students' understanding.

All the participants connected understanding with enabling better performance, in accordance with the ‘teaching for understanding’ approach that presents a performance perspective of understanding. Six of them also perceived mathematical understanding as meaning making: they described mathematical understanding as knowing the basis of a concept or a proof, or the grounds for choosing a certain procedure. Additionally, all the participants perceived mathematical understanding as enabling students to encounter and solve challenging questions and tasks. They emphasized students' understanding as the ability to approach new problems and to explore ways to solve them and noted active learning methods, some involving concrete materials.

Our findings are in line with our former study of engineers' perceptions prior to a teacher training program, implying the importance of the participants' background in engineering, including emphasis on applied mathematics.

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