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Examining two middle school mathematics teachers’ knowledge for teaching manipulation of algebraic expressions during lesson planning and instruction

Akyüz, Didem
Teachers use their content and pedagogical content knowledge for teaching algebra. For this reason, the examination of how teachers use this knowledge may help shed light on how students learn algebra, especially in determining why they usually have difficulties. The aim of the current study is to reveal what teachers know, and propose what they actually need to know for teaching the simplification and equivalence of algebraic expressions. The multiple-case study design was used for this study to compare and contrast the two middle school teachers’ lesson planning and instruction. The data corpus included lesson plans, actual instruction records, and post-observation interviews. Data analysis was conducted using the Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching (MKT) model. The findings indicated that both teachers had a lack of specialized content knowledge about mathematical representations such as algebra tiles. They did not use algebra tiles effectively and could not link algebraic and geometric representations that underlie the idea of multiplication. It was observed that both teachers generally used unknowns and variables interchangeably indicating the inadequacy of their common content knowledge. In the planning process, the two teachers were able to state the common misconceptions that the students generally had and the ways of addressing them. Through the cases of these two teachers, it was observed that teachers need to have a good conceptual mathematical understanding and also knowledge of students’ thinking in order to design effective lessons. Based on the findings, the types of knowledge that the teachers need to have are outlined and the theoretical and practical implications of the study are discussed.