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Two negatives don't always make a positive: Exploring how limitations in teacher knowledge and the curriculum contribute to instructional quality

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This paper examines the contribution of mathematical knowledge for teaching (MKT) and curriculum materials to the implementation of lessons on integer subtraction. In particular, it investigates the instruction of three teachers with differing MKT levels using two editions of the same set of curriculum materials that provided different levels of support. This variation in MKT level and curriculum support facilitated exploring the distinct and joint contribution of MKT and the curriculum materials to instructional quality. The analyses suggest that MKT relates positively to teachers' use of representations, provision of explanations, precision in language and notation, and ability to capitalize on student contributions and move the mathematics along in a goal-directed manner. Curriculum materials set the stage for attending to the meaning of integer subtraction and appeared to support teachers' use of representations, provision of explanations, and precision in language and notation. More critically, the findings suggest that less educative curriculum materials, coupled with low levels of MKT, can lead to problematic instruction. In contrast, educative materials can help low-MKT teachers provide adequate instruction, while higher MKT levels seem to enable teachers to compensate for curriculum limitations.
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Keywords: curriculum materials; integers; mathematics; teacher knowledge; teaching quality

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-08-01

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