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Mathematics Teacher Preparation in Central America and the Caribbean

Angel Ruiz, editor
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
Springer Briefs in Education
[Reviewed by
Peter T. Olszewski
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Five case studies are presented in Mathematics Teacher Preparation in Central America and the Caribbean. The foreword tells the reader the story of these five works by first presenting the Capacity & Networking Project (CANP), established in 2011. The program consists of a yearly two-week workshop with about forty participants, half from the hosting country and half from a regional neighborhood, who interact with experts in mathematics, mathematics education, and school policy. It is a major international initiative in the mathematical sciences in the developing world to help exchange information, collaborate with others, and share current research. When this book was printed in 2016, five CANP workshops had been held, all with the common goal of improving mathematics education.

This book is the second in the series of CANP reports. It is the result of the papers presented in Spanish at the second CANP conference held from August 6–17, 2012 in San José, Costa Rica. As pointed out by Ferdinando Arzarello, President of the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction, “It is my strong hope that with the publication of these CANP books, we will have a wide update picture of mathematics education needs and problems from relevant parts of the developing world. This will help to avoid the dangers of the alienation generated by the loss of the variety of cultural richness existing in the different regions of the world.”

The five papers in the book are

  • Mathematics Teacher Preparation in Central America and Caribbean. An Introduction
  • Colombia: Mathematics Education and the Preparation of Teachers. Consolidating a Professional and Scientific Field
  • Costa Rica: The Preparation of Mathematics Teachers
  • Dominican Republic: The Initial and Continuing Preparation of Teachers
  • Venezuela: Initial and Continuing Preparation of the Mathematics Teacher.

There is a wealth of research presented on curricula, effective teaching practices, and current math education issues facing teachers, students, and administrators. For example, in Latin America the achievement on PISA, the international assessment from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), is systematically among the lowest of participating countries. The average scores for countries participating from Latin America was approximately 397, almost 100 points lower that the OECD average and 215 points lower than Shanghai. Fully 63% of Latin American youth scored under Level 2, which is considered to be the level needed to function adequately in the modern world. Less than 1% scored at the highest two levels. There is also a 55-point difference between the highest (Chile) and the lowest (Peru). Tables 1.1 to 1.3 on pages 4–5 outline these findings.

Through the five papers, various challenges, strengths, and weaknesses are presented. For example, the Dominican Republic has made important attempts to provide certified teachers to the system, as pointed out on pages 61–62. There, a ten-year plan with new regulations for education, the Program for the Development of Elementary Education (PRODPE), an elementary teacher preparation program in the Salome Ureña de Henríquez Teacher Preparation Institution (INFODOSU), and for secondary teachers by the universities under the supervision of the National Institute for the Preparation and Professional Development of Teachers (INAFOCAM) all help teachers with the right training needed for 21st century students. These programs have been revised and unified, teachers can now have a specialized level for which they will be teaching, and there is a greater consciousness in all sectors of the country of the importance of education in overcoming poverty. However, access to upper secondary education is barely 37%. Drop out and absentee rates are high in regions where school aged children are in the workforce and there are limited resources for teacher preparation and purchase of adequate materials.

In Venezuela, the initial and continuing preparation of mathematics teachers have some positive impacts such as the existence of public policies concerning teacher preparation. What can be called the “Teaching State” is established by the Venezuelan Constitution, in which the State is given the power to establish rules for general action in teacher preparation that are of a compulsory nature. Graduate programs have led to the development of diverse groups that have carried out and maintain an interest in doing research on the problems associated with Mathematics Education. Much of the curricular structure of teacher preparation programs dates from the 1990s, however, and therefore is behind the times. There is also a problem of salary level of teachers and the lack of time in class preparation vs. hours teaching. Lastly, there is a shortage of secondary mathematics teachers that is getting worse as enrollments in mathematics teacher preparation programs have been falling. In short, the curricular changes over the years in Venezuela have resulted in positive results in quantitative outcomes but not necessarily with respect to the quality of education for the student.

In every paper there are challenges, positives, and negatives in math education. This book gives the reader an eye-opening interpretation of the current research, facts, and realities on the state of mathematics education. Books like this put together vital papers to give math educators an up-to-date state of affairs in the profession, acknowledgement of the problems, and the incentive to figure out what to do to solve the problems.

Peter Olszewski is a Mathematics Lecturer at The Pennsylvania State University, The Behrend College, an editor for Larson Texts, Inc. in Erie, PA, and is the 362nd Chapter Advisor of the Pennsylvania Alpha Beta Chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon. His research fields are mathematics education, Cayley color graphs, Markov chains, and mathematical textbooks. He can be reached at Outside of teaching and textbook editing, he enjoys playing golf, playing guitar and bass, reading, gardening, traveling, and painting landscapes.

See the table of contents in the publisher's webpage.