Original Research

Design principles to consider when student teachers are expected to learn mathematical modelling

Rina Durandt
Pythagoras | Vol 42, No 1 | a618 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v42i1.618 | © 2021 Rina Durandt | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 April 2021 | Published: 29 September 2021

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Rina Durandt, Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, Faculty of Science, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

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This article sets out design principles to consider when student mathematics teachers are expected to learn mathematical modelling during their formal education. Blum and Leiß’s modelling cycle provided the theoretical framework to explain the modelling process. Learning to teach mathematical modelling, and learning to solve modelling tasks, while simultaneously fostering positive attitudes, is not easy to achieve. The inclusion of real-life examples and applications is regarded as an essential component in mathematics curricula worldwide, but it largely depends on mathematics teachers who are well prepared to teach modelling. The cyclic process of design-based research was implemented to identify key elements that ought to be considered when mathematical modelling is incorporated in formal education. Fifty-five third-year student teachers from a public university in South Africa participated in the study. Three phases were implemented, focusing firstly on relevance (guided by a needs analysis), secondly on consistency and practicality via the design and implementation of two iterations, and lastly on effectiveness by means of reflective analysis and evaluation. Mixed data were collected via a selection of qualitative instruments, and the Attitudes Towards Mathematical Modelling Inventory. Through content analyses students’ progress was monitored. Results analysed through SPSS showed significant positive changes in their enjoyment and motivation towards mathematical modelling. Student teachers require sufficient resources and opportunities through their formal education to participate regularly in mathematical modelling activities, to develop competence in solving modelling tasks, and to augment positive attitudes. This study adds value to the global discussion related to teachers’ professional development regarding mathematical modelling.


attitudes towards mathematical modelling; design-based research; design principles; formal education; learning mathematical modelling; mathematical modelling; professional development; student mathematics teachers


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