The cultural dimension of beliefs
An investigation of future primary teachers’ epistemological beliefs concerning the nature of mathematics in 15 countries
Beliefs constitute a central part of a person’s professional competencies and are crucial to the perception of situations as they influence our choice of actions. This paper focuses on epistemological beliefs about the nature of mathematics of future primary teachers from an international perspective. The data reported are part of a larger sample originating from the TEDS-M study which compares primary mathematics teacher education in 15 countries. In this paper we examine the pattern of beliefs of future teachers aiming to teach mathematics at primary level. We explore whether and to what extent beliefs concerning the nature of mathematics are influenced by cultural factors, in our case the extent to which a country’s culture can be characterized by an individualistic versus collectivistic orientation according to Hofstede’s terminology. In the first part of the paper, the literature on epistemological beliefs is reviewed and the role of culture and individualism/collectivism on the formation of beliefs concerning the nature of mathematics will be discussed. In the empirical part, means and distributions of belief ratings will be reported. Finally, multilevel analyses explore how much of the variation of belief preferences between countries can be explained by the individualistic orientation of a country.