Examining pre-service teachers’ subject matter knowledge of school mathematics concepts

Zanele Ndlovu, Nyna Amin, Michael Anthony Samuel


This article explores the nature of the subject matter knowledge that pre-service mathematics teachers’ possess
by analysing its components, namely, common content knowledge and specialised content knowledge of the
high school mathematics curriculum. The data was generated from 59 final year pre-service mathematics
teachers’ written responses, which tested three sets of competencies: solving problems on Functions and
Inequalities; analysing and interpreting learners’ errors; and their expertise in allocating marks to questions.
Analysis of the written responses identified five categories of response patterns and thereafter individual
interviews were conducted with four participants to discuss the responses. The results revealed that while the
participants were competent solvers of school mathematics problems, they were unable to analyse and
interpret learners’ errors for diagnostic purposes. This suggests that teacher preparation should develop
pre-service mathematics teachers’ specialised content knowledge. The findings also confirmed the value of
learner error analysis as an alternative strategy to cultivate the specialised content knowledge of future
mathematics teachers.


Subject matter knowledge; pre-service mathematics teachers; high school mathematics curriculum

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Copyright (c) 2018 Zanele Ndlovu, Nyna Amin, Michael Anthony Samuel

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Journal of Education