Tensions of trust in preservice teachers’ consideration of challenging mathematics tasks

Erin Smith, University of Southern Mississippi
Tracy E. Dobie, The University of Utah
Naomi Jessup, Georgia State University
Jennifer Ward, Kennesaw State University


Drawing on a larger, cross-institutional study that examines equitable elementary mathematics education, this article reports initial findings related to tensions that emerged for preservice teachers (PSTs) related to trusting students with open-ended, challenging mathematics tasks. Data composed of 194 PSTs’ written responses to a survey question. Using methods of qualitative analysis, findings indicate two prominent tensions that emerged for PSTs related to trusting students with open-ended challenging tasks: productive struggle versus unproductive failure and teacher control versus student control. These findings suggest that reform efforts that encourage teachers to implement open-ended, challenging tasks may not come to fruition if underlying issues of (mis)trust teachers may have related to students are not unpacked and addressed.