Teacher Perspectives of Small-Group Mathematics Instruction: A Qualitative Study

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Nationally, a large percentage of students have a phobia concerning mathematics, due in part to a lack of understanding. At the same time, student scores on state-administered mathematics tests have plateaued. Some of these students may become teachers and instruct a new generation of students in much the same manner. Research has outlined the need to differentiate instruction within a small-group setting, but a gap remains in the literature concerning why teachers make the pedagogical choice to teach mathematics using a whole-group methodology. The Vygotskian constructivist theory of third space framed the study. The purpose of the qualitative case study was to explore the rationale for mathematics teachers’ pedagogical choices specific to group size in the local setting. A judgment sampling of 13 third- through fifth-grade mathematics teachers across a local school district was determined. To understand teacher perspective, data collection consisted of an open-ended questionnaire, semi-structured interview, and a document review of lesson plans. Data revealed some teachers consider time constraints, expertise, and classroom management as hindrances to teaching mathematics in small-group settings, while other teachers believe small groupings to be unnecessary.