^{ 1}and Helen Forgasz

^{ 2}

^{ 1}Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology and the Arts, Israel

^{ 2}Monash University, Australia

Mathematics is an integral part of our life, and children are engaged in mathematics at a very young age. Already at this young age, children are able to develop extensive mathematical knowledge connected with everyday life, and thus preschool teachers should know how best to integrate mathematics into children’s learning activities. Moreover, preschool teachers need to hold positive attitudes and beliefs regarding mathematics and its teaching, since their attitudes and beliefs can impact their willingness to engage in mathematics with young children. However, many prospective preschool teachers have negative beliefs about mathematics, beliefs formed during their studies of mathematics in elementary, junior, and high school. In this study we used metaphors to reveal the beliefs about mathematics held by 42 prospective preschool teachers prior to and after a one semester course devoted to the teaching of mathematics in the early childhood years. One way of viewing the metaphor genre is as a means by which a comparison can be made between two non-connected issues which may share common characteristics. Prior to the course the participants were asked, among other questions: “If mathematics was an animal, what animal it would be?”. After the course the “food metaphor” was included as part of the questionnaire: “If mathematics was a food, what food would it be?”. Results suggested that the use of metaphors is a powerful tool which helps to reveal beliefs about mathematics. The analysis of the responses to the two metaphors showed that many prospective preschool teachers have very negative beliefs about mathematics and suffer from severe fear, hatred, panic, and anxiety (e.g., dragon with two heads - scary, lizard - disgusting like math). Others believed that mathematics is a very difficult and complicated subject (e.g., nuts - difficult to crack, beagle dog – long like equations). Others had more positive beliefs about mathematics (e.g., owl - clever, cake - like to bake). Prior to the course 36% of the participants revealed very negative beliefs. After the course some of them (17%) demonstrated beliefs which could be classified as less negative, but about one fifth of the participants (19%) still held very negative beliefs about mathematics. It seems that a one semester course can make a small change in beliefs, but much more has to be done in order to change prospective preschool teachers’ beliefs about mathematics, so that they can engage in mathematics with young children positively and promote their mathematical learning.