Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Ok-Kyeong Kim

Second Advisor

Dr. Jane-Jane Lo

Third Advisor

Dr. Theresa Grant

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Kyong Mi Choi


Mathematics teachers, teaching fractions, Saudi mathematics teachers, elementary math education


Recent reform efforts in Saudi Arabia attend to mathematics instruction with a great deal of emphasis to improve Saudi mathematics education. Studies in different countries have confirmed that teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching plays an important role in mathematical quality of instruction and students’ achievement (e.g., Ball, 1990; Baumert et al., 2010; Hill, Rowan, & Ball, 2005). Yet few studies about mathematics teachers’ knowledge for teaching have been conducted in the Saudi context. This study investigates Saudi elementary mathematics teachers’ knowledge for teaching in the content strand of rational numbers with an emphasis on fractions, which is an important step toward the educational reform in Saudi Arabia.

The data were first collected from 44 female in-service elementary mathematics teachers in Alahsa City. They responded to one mathematical knowledge for teaching (MKT) measure on rational numbers and a survey on teachers’ confidence in teaching fractions and beliefs about issues related to teaching and learning mathematics. Then, 12 of the teachers were selected for interviews with tasks on multiplication and division with fractions, including solving problems, generating story problems and representations, and interpreting students’ work.

The results revealed that the 44 teachers were on or below the average IRT score of the MKT measure. Also, they had high confidence in their knowledge preparation for teaching specific topics regarding fractions, and had strong beliefs that coincided with reform efforts in school mathematics as well as beliefs that kept a traditional view of school mathematics. The 12 teachers were able to solve the problems involving multiplication and division with fractions by using the standard procedures, but overall much of their reasoning could not be considered as conceptually deep. The 12 teachers’ beliefs on teaching mathematics were not supported by their content knowledge for teaching. For example, although the 12 teachers believed representations are important in mathematics teaching and learning, many of them were not able to use representations effectively to solve multiplication and/or division with fractions.

Overall, the higher the teachers’ MKT score was, the better their performance on the interview tasks was. However, comparing the teachers’ MKT scores and interview responses within and across teachers revealed that the interview data provided more information about the teachers’ content knowledge for teaching mathematics. Although none of the teachers scored higher than an IRT score of 0.18027 (close to the mean of the norm group), some of them were good at solving the interview tasks procedurally and conceptually. Whereas some teachers with the same MKT score performed quite differently on the interview tasks, some teachers with different MKT scores had a similar performance on the tasks. These findings led to a discussion of teachers’ use of alternative strategies and representations to solve problems, and interpretation of student work. Finally, one potential factor that was notable and might have influenced the teachers’ performance on the interview tasks was the type of professional development programs they attended. This study provides several implications for teacher education, professional development, and future research in Saudi Arabia.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access