Prospective Teachers Anticipate Challenges Fostering the Mathematical Practice of Making Sense

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Problem solving has long been a priority in mathematics education, and the first Common Core mathematical practice (SMP1) focuses on this priority through the language of “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.” We present findings from a survey about how prospective elementary teachers' (PTs) make sense of potential difficulties with fostering SMP1. Findings suggested that PTs' common anticipated difficulties relate to planning a solution pathway and self monitoring whether the solution makes sense. Moreover, a third of PTs disclosed that their anticipated difficulties are linked to their own personal struggles with aspects of SMP1. An alternative interpretation of SMP1 surfaced in which a small number of PTs described SMP1 as necessitating that a teacher teach multiple solution methods to students, instead of engaging students in productive struggle to develop their own strategies. We present a framework illustrating the connections between SMP 1 and Pólya's problem solving phases, and we discuss how these findings connect to and build on previous research of PTs' experiences with problem solving. We offer implications for the targeted support needed in teacher preparation programs to address these struggles, to prevent them from being replicated in their students.