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This conference presentation was originally published as:

Northcote, M. (2014, July). Threshold concepts and attitudes in mathematics education: Listening to students' past, present and projected stories. Paper presented at the 5th Biennial International Threshold Concepts Conference, Durham, UK. Abstract retrieved from


130103 Higher Education| 130208 Mathematics and Numeracy Curriculum and Pedagogy| 130313 Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators


The process of becoming a skilled and confident mathematics teacher can be strongly influenced by the teacher's attitudes to both mathematics and mathematics teaching. Investigations into the attitudes of pre-service teachers have shown that teachers' attitudes directly influence their teaching practices and, subsequently, their students' learning experiences. Teachers' understanding of mathematical content and concepts also impact on the quality of teaching. Hence, the identification of threshold concepts and attitudes associated with teaching mathematics can be beneficial to pre-service teachers and their students.

By understanding the concepts associated with teaching mathematics to young children, pre-service teachers come to transcend their lack of confidence about mathematics and grow to realise the value of purposefully applying mathematics to everyday life. Their perceived lack of competence in their own mathematical abilities can be transformed into an appreciation of how mathematics can be taught in an enjoyable and meaningful manner.

In the study reported in this paper, the researcher examined the threshold concepts and attitudes about mathematics and mathematics teaching held by two groups of pre-service teachers who were enrolled in a first year mathematics education course as part of an undergraduate teaching degree. The course in which they were enrolled aimed to enable the pre-service teachers to develop an understanding of the mathematical learning, understanding and attitudes normally experienced by young children aged from four to eight years of age. During the course, the preservice teachers were also expected to develop and demonstrate knowledge of the mathematical concepts relevant to teaching children of this age group.


This abstract may be accessed from the conference website here.

Used by permission: University College London

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