Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Choi, Kyong Mi

First Committee Member

Schmidt, Renita

Second Committee Member

Hong, Dae

Third Committee Member

Hand, Brian

Fourth Committee Member

Ansley, Timothy


Recent research shows that teachers’ level of Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching (MKT) and their beliefs about teaching and learning effect teaching practices and student achievement. Higher levels of MKT typically lead to more effective teaching abilities in terms of helping students make meaning of mathematical concepts, but beliefs seem to be a mediating factor in this relationship. One specific teaching practice that can help guide students through this meaning making is questioning. Although it is known that MKT and beliefs play an important role in outcomes of teacher practices, the effects of these factors on teachers’ ability to ask meaningful questions have not yet been explored. This mixed methods study uses descriptive data of teachers’ questioning patterns with a cross-case analysis of five elementary mathematics teachers to investigate how the nature of elementary teachers’ questioning changes between procedural and conceptual mathematics lessons, and how teachers’ level of MKT and their beliefs about teaching and learning aid in or inhibit their ability to ask questions that engage students in mathematical reasoning and sense making. High levels of alignment with rule-based beliefs about teaching mathematics were found to be a major inhibitor to teachers’ ability to ask meaningful questions in the classroom. While high MKT is helpful in creating reasoning-based dialogue in the classroom, high rule-based beliefs limit the potential effects of high MKT on teacher questioning practices. Relationships between MKT, beliefs, and questioning are further dissected, and implications for teacher development efforts are discussed.

Public Abstract

Teacher questioning is known as a useful tool in engaging students in deep thinking about mathematical ideas, however, many teachers find it difficult to ask meaningful questions. Two factors known to affect a teacher’s ability to ask meaningful questions in a mathematics classroom are their mathematical knowledge for teaching, which includes both mathematical knowledge and knowledge about teaching mathematics, and their beliefs about how students learn. This study explores the ways in which these factors of knowledge and beliefs affect teachers’ ability to ask meaningful questions that engage their students in the process of learning. Six teachers were studied in order to answer two questions: 1) Do teachers’ questioning practices change depending on the type of lesson they are teaching, and 2) How do teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching and beliefs about teaching and learning affect their ability to ask meaningful questions? If teachers are not asking meaningful questions is it because they do not have the knowledge to do so, or because they do not find questions to be an important factor in student learning? This study found that the biggest hindrance to meaningful teacher questioning is a belief that rules and procedures are needed in order for students to succeed in mathematics. Teachers with this belief ask questions that simplify mathematical problems and do not provide students the opportunity to reason and build deep connections. The relationship between mathematical knowledge for teaching, beliefs, and questioning is further dissected, the implications of these results on teacher development are discussed.


Beliefs, Mathematics, MKT, Questioning


ix, 111 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 101-108).


Copyright © 2017 Jessica L. Jensen