Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Miller, Grant


This study addresses the question of whether or not pre-service teachers are ready and prepared to use and teach the highly-specialized language of each discipline. The disciplinary languages present teaching and learning challenges due to their lack of parallels in the daily language (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008). Additionally, the languages of the disciplines are rarely taught and are commonly acquired through an isolated representation of words without a situated meaning within the theory (Gee, 2002). The knowledge of the particular ways of reading, writing, listening to, and talking in the content areas provides opportunities for students’ apprenticeship within the disciplines required for success in higher education contexts (Dobbs, Ippolito, and Charner, 2017). Moreover, this study addresses the question of how future teachers develop disciplinary knowledge and skills. The purpose of this case study was to investigate how mathematical literacy is shaped and defined by the experiences, language, and disciplinary practices of pre-service teachers and experts in mathematics. This overall aim was unfolded by three guiding research questions: 1) What do the Experiences of Pre-Service Teachers and Experts in Mathematics Reveal about their Understanding of Mathematical Literacy? 2) RQ 2. How do pre-service teachers and experts in mathematics use language when solving mathematical problems? and 3) What literacy practices do pre-service teachers and experts in mathematics utilize when presented with modules that require mathematics problem-solving? To structure the elements of analysis for the participants’ responses, I adopted the theoretical support from the emerging disciplinary literacy framework, the novice-expert paradigm, and the tenets of M. K. Halliday’s functional linguistic theory (i.e., Systemic Functional Linguistics; [SFL]). Four faculty in the Department of Mathematics and four pre-service teachers in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at a large Midwest university agreed to participate in this case study. For the data collection, I asked the participants to participate in two sessions. In the first sessions, the participants responded to a semi-structured interview. Afterward, in a second session, the participants solved modules of mathematical problems following three protocols: a think-aloud, a silent-solving, and an oral-explanatory. The results of the participants’ responses to the semi-structured interview and the three protocols indicated that their experiences as learners and teachers of mathematics are tied to their definitions of literacy and disciplinary literacy. The SFL analysis showed that for the experts of mathematics, mathematical problem-solving is a more abstract and cognitive practice. The pre-service teachers’ registers indicated that mathematical problem-solving is experienced as more concrete and real practice. The unique literacy practices that these participants displayed showed the strong connection between language, literacy, and mathematical thought.The implications of this study are discussed in terms of the importance of language and disciplinary literacy in preparation for future teachers as they progress in their course of study within their teaching education programs.




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