Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Mathematics presents specific challenges for primary preservice teachers and fractions is among the most problematic of topics. This thesis investigates preservice primary teachers’ understanding and use of fractions and fraction representations. Preservice teachers have particular difficulty explaining the rationale behind fraction operations, often only demonstrating superficial knowledge of symbolic procedures. This level of knowledge is insufficient for teaching and, thus, initial teacher education presents a crucial opportunity to deepen teachers’ knowledge before they begin their teaching careers. The study addresses the crucial need for further research into the initial teacher education of preservice teachers at a time where there is a national agenda for improving education in Australia.

However, despite the potential to redress preservice teachers’ knowledge of fractions, there is a dearth of studies elucidating how fraction knowledge develops over a program in initial teacher education, particularly in an Australian context. To address this gap, the current study aimed to investigate the development of preservice primary teachers’ knowledge about teaching fractions during a Graduate Diploma of Education (GradDipEd) program with a focus on their understanding and use of fraction representations. To focus the study, the following research questions were posed:

RQ1. How do preservice teachers’ understandings of fractions and fraction representations develop over a teacher education program?
RQ2. How and why do preservice teachers use fraction representations for learning and teaching tasks over the course of a teacher education program?



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.