Problem Statement: Recent studies in education have focused on how to handle metaphors as research and evaluation tools. Metaphors have many advantages for researchers, educators and learners with the most important being that they can help educators understand pre-service teachers’ thinking and belief systems of mathematics. A study of previous literature in this area has shown that metaphors are used as explicit explorations of teachers’ personal views of mathematics and their understanding of new images within mathematics, which can contribute to their own personal mathematical views. In this respect, comparing the metaphors used by teachers in different countries can yield many advantages.
Purpose of Study: This study aims to investigate Belgian and Turkish pre-service primary school teachers’ metaphoric expressions about mathematics. Particularly, the focus is on what types of metaphors are used to express mathematics and whether differences exist between the two countries.
Methods: A written questionnaire was presented to 79 pre-service primary school teachers (37 Belgian and 42 Turkish). This questionnaire asked the pre-service teachers to provide a sentence explaining their own metaphor about mathematics and then draw an illustration to accompany the statement. Next, they were asked to explain the reasons for their written metaphors. The data-analysis process consisted of five sequential phases (listing, coding-reorganizing, categorizing, labelling and calculating inter-rater reliability). The inter-rater reliability was found to be 98%.
Findings and Results: In this study, four different categories of metaphors emerged (gesture, animate, inanimate and emotion). In addition, differences were discovered to exist between the Turkish and Belgian participants’ metaphors. The range of metaphoric expressions produced by the participants was extensive. The Turkish participants mostly wrote gesture and emotion metaphors, while the Belgian participants preferred animate metaphors for expressing mathematics.
Conclusions and Recommendations: The wide range of metaphoric expressions gathered could be explained by the pre-service teachers’ experiences with mathematics; the way that mathematics is taught based upon geographic location; geographic and cultural differences at the national and international level and background experiences in regard to family,; and social and educational areas of interest. After further examining the information collected, the results showed that the major reason for the differences was the pre-service teachers’ background experiences in education and culture.
Keywords: Metaphor, mathematics, mathematics education, pre-service primary school teacher