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Middle School Teachers’ Use of Mathematics to Make Sense of Student Solutions to Proportional Reasoning Problems


"Mathematics teacher education aims to improve teachers' use of mathematical knowledge to support teaching and learning, an aspect of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). In this study, we interviewed teachers to understand how they used mathematics to make sense of student solutions to proportional reasoning problems. The larger purpose was to find accurate ways of categorizing teachers' ability to do this vital aspect of teaching and thereby to inform assessment, teacher education, and professional development. We conjectured that teachers' PCK for proportional reasoning could be reliably described in terms of attention to quantitative meanings in story problem contexts and in terms of understanding nave forms of proportional reasoning. Instead, our findings reveal that individual teachers used a variety of means to make sense of (1) cognitively similar student solutions to different tasks and (2) mathematically related steps of a student solution within a single task. These findings illustrate the complexity of PCK for the topic of proportional reasoning and suggest the limits of what can be inferred about teacher knowledge from teachers' evaluations of student solutions. We discuss implications for teacher education and assessment."