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

  • Zanele Ndlovu University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Nyna Amin University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Michael Anthony Samuel University of KwaZulu-Natal
Keywords: Subject matter knowledge, pre-service mathematics teachers, high school mathematics curriculum


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.
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