Learning to Teach Mathematics Online: An Action Research Study

Learning to Teach Mathematics Online: An Action Research Study

Patrick Wachira (Cleveland State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1476-4.ch014


Online learning has become an important vehicle for student learning. The number of students choosing the online learning option to earn their degrees has grown over the recent years. Many universities across the US already offer web-based learning and are placing more courses online. This trend is motivated by several issues among which is new pedagogical opportunities web-based learning provides, advancement on research in online education, increasing student numbers, reaching diverse audiences, and meeting students at their own time and place. Even so, there is little research on its effectiveness especially in the context of mathematics teaching to strengthen preservice teachers' subject-matter knowledge and pedagogical skills. This chapter presents an investigation into how online learning can meet the goals of teaching mathematics in a way that is consistent with mathematics education reform goals of developing mathematical understanding.
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Higher education institutions are increasingly implementing online Learning. This trend is motivated by new pedagogical opportunities and strategies, increasing student numbers, and providing convenience to students to meet at their own time and place. Online learning is increasingly being seen as an effective way to attract students to higher education and facilitate the path to earning a degree thus increasing the overall enrollment and educational attainment. The Babson Survey Research group reports that thirty percent of higher education students are taking at least one distance education course. While online learning is a promising vehicle for preparing teachers as well as other professionals, there is little research on its effectiveness especially in the context of mathematics teaching to strengthen learners’ subject-matter knowledge and pedagogical skills. Many mathematics educators continue to prepare mathematics teachers in the traditional “brick and mortar” classrooms. Teaching mathematics to teachers online is potentially difficult given that the math education faculty attempts to model best practices in teaching that include problem solving in small group collaborative learning facilitated by hands-on manipulatives and/or technology as advocated by the mathematics education reform movement. Some of the reform recommended practices for mathematics education are problem solving and reasoning, the use of hands-on learning tools whether concrete or virtual, group work or collaborative work, increased communication both verbal and mathematically using various representations and varied assessment techniques. This paper presents an investigation into how online learning environments and associated technology tools can be leveraged to meet the recommended goals for mathematics education.

Online Courses

According to The Sloan Consortium (2008), Online courses are those in which at least 80 percent of the course content is delivered online. Face-to-face instruction includes courses in which zero to 29 percent of the content is delivered online; this category includes both traditional and Web-facilitated courses. The remaining alternative, blended (sometimes called hybrid) instruction is defined as having between 30 percent and 80 percent of the course content delivered online (Rickard, 2010). A blended or mixed mode instruction uses both web-based and face-to-face classroom learning formats ideally combining the best elements of online and face-to-face learning.

Online Learning

Online learning is defined as any teaching and/or learning activity that depends on communications technologies such as Internet and/or computer technologies (such as computer hardware, mobile devices, and software applications) for delivery of all or most of the educational experience. Online learning can mean a learning experience that is fully online (such as a course delivered or a degree obtained at a distance) or one that combines online engagement with some face-to-face activity, often referred to as blended learning; it can be synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of both. (Rickard, 2010; Hiltunen, 2010). Mathematics online learning refers to the use of computers, both hardware and software and the Internet to deliver and facilitate mathematics instruction.



In mathematics education, there is an increased emphasis in the K-12 mathematics curriculum on mathematics process. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) advocates for the development of an inquiry-based mathematics tradition in which students are encouraged to explore, develop conjectures, prove, and problem solve (NCTM, 2000). Students are also encouraged to interact, discuss their ideas and results, often within small, cooperative groups as well as with their teachers. The increased emphasis in mathematical process in mathematics education, while at the same time online learning continues to grow in popularity underscores the need to examine the effectiveness of online learning.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Teacher Education: Refers to a program of training designed to equip prospective and practicing teachers with the knowledge, skills and dispositions they will require to effectively teach from elementary to higher education levels.

Online Learning: A type of distance learning that takes place over the Internet using computers.

Mathematics: Mathematics is a science. It constitutes study of numbers, quantity and space. It includes other topics such as measurement, geometry, probability and statistics.

Pre-Service Teachers: Also known as teacher candidates refers to students who are enrolled in a teacher education program working toward teacher certification.

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