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The Use of Classroom Case Studies in Preparing First-Year Mathematics Graduate Teaching Assistants

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Mathematics Division Technical Session 4

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Paper Authors


Eliza Gallagher Clemson University Orcid 16x16

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Although my mathematical research was in topological algebra, my first faculty position was a joint appointment in Mathematics and Mathematics Education housed within the Mathematics Department at California State University, Chico. Currently the Coordinator of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Clemson University, my research interests are in the field of STEM education, and particularly the development of a teacher identity among mathematics graduate students. As of Fall 2016, I will be an Assistant Professor of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University.

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Lisa Benson Clemson University

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Lisa Benson is an Associate Professor of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University, with a joint appointment in Bioengineering. Her research focuses on the interactions between student motivation and their learning experiences. Her projects involve the study of student perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards becoming engineers and scientists, and their problem solving processes. Other projects in the Benson group include effects of student-centered active learning, self-regulated learning, and incorporating engineering into secondary science and mathematics classrooms. Her education includes a B.S. in Bioengineering from the University of Vermont, and M.S. and Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Clemson University.

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Geoff Potvin Florida International University

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Case studies have long been used in preparing professionals in medicine and law. More recently, research has supported the use of case study in preparing K-12 mathematics teachers. Well-crafted case studies allow pre-professionals the opportunity to explore nuances from practice prior to taking on that practice themselves, thus deepening their skill base and understanding of the profession and making them more effective practitioners.

By expanding the use of case studies to include first-year mathematics graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) we hope to improve their preparation for teaching mathematics at the college level. Since a significant proportion of first-year engineering students at large institutions receive their mathematics instruction from GTAs, improving the preparation of those GTAs could have a meaningful impact on first-year STEM attrition rates. This paper reports the results of a pilot program using case studies with mathematics GTAs.

In Fall 2015, a group of four first-year mathematics GTAs participated in a teaching seminar along with eighteen senior-level secondary mathematics pre-service teachers (PSTs). All four GTAs and four of the PSTs were also assisting in a pre-calculus course for STEM majors. Over the course of the semester, participants explored seven published case studies from middle school and high school classrooms. Each case study included pre-case activities to elicit the mathematical thinking related to the case, reading of the case study, and subsequent case discussions in small groups. Case discussions were guided by prompts that addressed one or more of: mathematical issues, analysis of student thinking, pedagogical issues, and contextual issues. Outcomes were assessed both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Qualitative assessment included analysis of written reflections and case study discussions. Statements by the participants in case discussions were categorized as reflecting subject-matter, pedagogical, or didactical expertise. Each participant was then located within a teaching identity framework based on the relative proportion of each type of statement.

Quantitative assessment included pre- and post-surveys regarding teaching beliefs, attitudes towards mathematics and teaching, and teaching identity. Comparison of pre- and post-survey results indicate slight shifts away from teaching and mathematician identities, and towards constructivist views of teaching.

Student performance in participants' sections of coordinated courses during their first assignment as teacher of record are compared to student performance in sections taught by other GTAs in their first teaching assignment and to overall student performance across all sections.

Gallagher, E., & Benson, L., & Potvin, G. (2016, June), The Use of Classroom Case Studies in Preparing First-Year Mathematics Graduate Teaching Assistants Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27029

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