in their undergraduate coursework. Even today, college coursework in mathematics may not stress conceptual understanding of content. Rather, the emphasis is on performing mathematical manipulations in a lecture format. Science coursework often is similar. Arons (1990) pointed out that college science courses, particularly introductory survey courses, focus on the major achievements in an area of science. Then, when prospective teachers of science go on in science coursework—most often some of the same coursework engaged in by science majors—they are exposed to science as a body of facts, not, as Coble and Koballa found more recently (1996), as a way of knowing the natural world through inquiry.12

Until recently, many teacher educators have taken it for granted that teacher candidates would be knowledgeable about subject matter in the discipline(s) in which they elected to major. Beyond reports that noted the number of courses taken at the college level by candidates, Cooney (1994) and Manouchehri (1997) could find no studies on the kinds or levels of secondary teachers’ knowledge of mathematics. Moreover, research on the relationships between teachers’ actual content knowledge (vs. amount of pedagogical training and experience) and the amount of student learning that occurs usually has been inconclusive.

Some recent studies do, however, point to a relationship between teachers’ content background and the quality of their instruction. Reviews of the research on this subject (Fennema and Franke, 1992; Manouchehri, 1997) indicate that the importance of teachers’ actual knowledge of content in mathematics and their conceptual understanding of mathematics in particular is coming under focused study. As early as 1985, Steinberg et al. found that teachers with deeper conceptual understanding also engaged students in active problem solving, and helped students see relationships inside and outside of mathematics. These authors suggested that there is a relationship between the quality of secondary teachers’ knowledge of mathematics and the quality of their classroom instruction. More recent studies have confirmed the strong positive relationship between a teacher’s conceptual understanding of mathematics and the choices he or she


Undergraduate science, mathematics, and engineering education has begun to change during the past decade in ways that are consistent with the reforms being espoused for grades K-12. Rothman and Narum (1999) provide an overview of these changes in undergraduate education and predict the kinds of change that is likely over the next 10 years. Additional information about this report is available at <>.

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