“I’m Not Just a Math Teacher”: Understanding the Development of Elementary Teachers’ Mathematics Teacher Identity



Teachers’ professional identity refers to how teachers identify themselves in the field of teaching. Individuals are considered to have multiple identities which are continually shaped by our social and cultural contexts, beliefs, prior experiences, and also by our professional contexts, including knowledge, skills, educational principles and ideology. Thus, an individual’s multiple identities may not always cohere and this misalignment is likely to produce identity tensions. In this study we examined the experiences of 18 elementary teachers who were being challenged to change how they defined themselves professionally through their involvement in a professional development program. From the analyses of hour-long interviews, we describe four core tensions the teachers experienced between being an elementary generalist and a mathematics teacher. We also discuss how and why these identity tensions function as sources of growth, instead of barriers to development, which provide further insights for professional developers, school leaders, and policy makers.


Mathematics teacher identity Teacher identity Identity tensions Elementary teacher identity Teacher professional development 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Curriculum and InstructionIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA

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