In light of the recent push toward more field-intensive teacher education programs, I found Teaching Elementary Mathematics: A Resource for Field Experiences to be an excellent resource for mathematics educators. The book is well organized into sections that provide the reader with a wide range of possible tasks for preservice teachers to conduct during their field placements. The sections include ideas for observations, interviews, and activities for helping children learn mathematics. Even though the book is clearly designed to be used with elementary school teachers, many of the observation and interview activities could easily be adapted to be used with middle level students as well.
The three sections of the book focus on different aspects of the field experience. The first section is a series of suggested classroom observations of the teacher and students. These observations include examining teacher questioning, lesson content, testing, manipulative use, and much more. The second section focuses on conducting interviews with both the classroom teacher and her students. In this section, teacher beliefs and practices are examined as well as students’ mathematical thinking. The final section provides the reader with activities and games that will allow the preservice teacher both to analyze and help develop the students’ abilities to think mathematically.
One of the book’s greatest assets is that it appears to follow the development of the preservice teachers as they progress through their program of study. As the preservice teachers mature both in their mathematical thinking and their teaching abilities, the school-based tasks increase in complexity; starting with simple observations such as identifying manipulatives and moving toward interviews involving an in depth analysis of children’s mathematical thinking. This structure allows mathematics educators to easily select activities appropriate for their students.
Overall, I feel this book is thoughtfully prepared and provides preservice teachers with a variety of experiences to make their time in the schools as productive as possible. The sections are well written with practical activities that can be taken directly from the book and used. Or, for those of us who like to write our own materials, the book is an excellent resource full of ideas for each of us to consider when designing our own field experiences. This text will be an excellent addition any mathematics educator’s library.
Janet Shiver is a mathematics educator at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington. In addition to teaching mathematics courses for preservice elementary and middle grades teachers, she keeps busy working on various grants and pursuing her love of gardening.