Document Type: Book Chapters
Year published: 2013
City published: Thailand
Publisher: Center for Research in Mathematics Education (CRME), Khon Kaen University
Attention to details is one of the most important specific features of a mathematical way to thinking. When evaluating mathematical questions it is important to teach students to pay attention globally and locally, consider conditions, properties and relationships, since all of these aspects are as important to develop as mathematical techniques. To develop such skills in their students school teachers should have those skills themselves. In this study, we investigate the ability of school mathematics teachers to pay attention to details and use their mathematical knowledge. We are confident that the vast majority of teachers have excellent knowledge of mathematical techniques. Hence the question is whether this kind of knowledge might structure their attention in such a way that the emphasis on procedures deviates their attention from the essential details. Two groups of teachers from New Zealand and Hong Kong were given a mini-test containing seven simple mathematics questions. All questions in the test were provocative in the sense that they looked like routine questions but in fact they had some catch. The results from the test were startling – the vast majority of the teachers did not notice any catch and gave incorrect answers to most questions in the test. After the test the teachers were given a short questionnaire to reflect on their performance on the test. The teachers’ responses to the questionnaire are presented and analysed in the paper using theories on attention. Implementations of the results of the study in assessment and professional development are discussed.