The Secondary-Tertiary Transition in Mathematics: What High School Teachers Do to Prepare Students for Future Success in College-Level Calculus

Carol H. Wade, Sandra K. Cimbricz, Gerhard Sonnert, Meagan Gruver, Philip M. Sadler

Abstract


Quantitative analysis of the Factors Influencing College Success in Mathematics (FICSMath) Survey data indicates that high school mathematics teachers’ abilities to teach for conceptual understanding is a significant and positive predictor of student performance in single- variable college calculus. To explore these findings further, we gathered and analyzed interview data gained from a representative sample of high school precalculus teachers from across the U.S., identified by their students as requiring high levels of conceptual understanding (n = 13). Seventeen themes were identified and then combined into five overarching phenomenological themes. These overarching themes suggest that teachers who teach for high conceptual understanding (a) support relational understanding during problem solving, (b) require students to learn how to study to build on prior knowledge and learn from mistakes, (c) use mathematical language and ask critical questions to support learning, (d) focus on content knowledge necessary to make connections, and (e) use technology to support learning concepts but limit calculator use. Comparison of these results to quantitative findings further illuminate that intentional development of disciplinary knowledge, cognition, and language are noteworthy points of intersection for teachers and researchers alike.


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