Issues and Ideas in Education

Elementary Education Majors’ Stories About Math: An Analysis of Students’ Mathematics Autobiographies

Janelle L. Wilson and Carmen M. Latterell

  • Download PDF
  • DOI Number 

Autobiographies, Mathematics, Preservice elementary teachers

PUBLISHER The Author(s) 2017. This article is published with open access at

This paper analyzes 52 preservice elementary education majors’ mathematical autobiographies. Participants wrote about their previous experiences with mathematics. Three themes emerged:

  • My previous teachers have played a significant role in the formation of my mathematical identity.
  • I want to help my future students understand, enjoy, and appreciate mathematics. And
  • Mathematics has its ups and downs. Although directed to define mathematics, many participants did not do so. The remaining participants described mathematics as needed for everyday life, as problem solving, or as a study.
Page(s) 25–37
ISSN Print : 2320-7655, Online : 2320-8805
  • Charmaz, K. 2006. Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide through Qualitative Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • DeCorte, E. (1996). Learning bad and good things from instruction: A European perspective. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  • Drake, C. (2006). Turning points: Using teachers’ mathematics life stories to understand the implementation of mathematics education reform. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 9, 579–608.
  • Ellsworth, J. Z., & Buss, A. (2000). Autobiographical stories from preservice elementary mathematics and science students: Implications for K-16 teaching. School Science and Mathematics, 100(7), 355–364.
  • Ferguson, R. F. (2008). Teacher perceptions and expectations and the Black- White test score gap. Urban Education, 38, 460–507.
  • Gabriele, A., & Joran, E. (1998) Preservice teachers’ prior beliefs. Teaching and Teacher Education, 14, 175–191.
  • Grant, T. (1996). Preservice teacher planning: A study of the journey from learner to teacher in mathematics and social studies. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services: ED398202)
  • Guillaume, A. M., & Kirtman, L. (2010). Mathematics stories: Preservice teachers’ images and experiences as learners of mathematics. Issues in Teacher Education, 19(1), 121–143.
  • Harkness, S. S., D’Ambrosio, B., & Morrone, A. S. (2007). Preservice elementary teachers’ voices describe how their teacher motived them to do mathematics. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 65, 235–254.
  • Johnston, J. D., & Whitenack, J. W. (1992). The use of videotaped lessons to identify prospective teachers’ initial beliefs concerning issues of mathematics and science teacher education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services: ED404104)
  • Lipovec A., & Antolin, D. (2014). Slovenian pre-service teachers’ prototype biography. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(2), 183–193.
  • McCulloch, A., Marshall, P. L., DeCuir-Gunby, J. T., & Caldwell, T. S. (2013). Math autobiographies: A window into teachers’ identities as mathematics learners. School Science and Mathematics, 113(8), 380–389.
  • Riedesel, C. A., & Schwartz, J. E. (1994). The relationship between teachers’ knowledge and beliefs and the teaching of elementary mathematics. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services: ED366585)
  • Tsao, Y. L. (2014). Attitudes and beliefs toward mathematics for elementary preservice teachers. US-China Education Review B, 4(9), 616–626
  • Wenglinsky, H. (2001). Teacher classroom practices and student performance: How schools can make a difference (Report Number RR-01-19). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.