Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version

Spring 5-9-2014

Document Type



Shen, Yinjing. (2014). Elementary School Teachers' Interpretation and Promotion of Creativity in the Learning of Mathematics: A Grounded Theory Study. PhD dissertation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Human Sciences (Child, Youth and Family Studies), Under the Supervision of Professor Carolyn Pope Edwards. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Yinjing Shen


Creativity is important for young children learning mathematics. Comparing the investment theory of creativity and national standards and principles for early mathematics shows that doing mathematics is more than applying rules and procedures; rather, learning mathematics takes a lot of creativity. However, much literature claimed that creativity for young children in the learning of mathematics was not adequately supported by teachers in the classroom due to teachers’ poor college preparation in mathematics content knowledge, teachers’ negativity towards creative students, teachers’ occupational pressure, low quality curriculum, and the like. The purpose of this grounded theory study was to generate a model that explains how teachers make sense of creativity in the learning of mathematics and how teachers promote or fail to promote it in the classroom. In-depth interviews with 30 Kindergarten to Grade-3 teachers, participating in a graduate mathematics specialist certificate program in a medium-sized Midwestern city were conducted. These teachers were also asked to draw a picture to represent their understanding of creativity for young students in the learning of mathematics. A theoretical model was developed describing: 1) the central phenomenon of how teachers interpret mathematical creativity; 2) the strategies teachers use to promote creativity in the learning of mathematics; and 3) the consequences of how different aspects of mathematical creativity are promoted by different strategies in different degrees. The findings challenge the popular notion that teachers do not view mathematics in early grades as requiring creativity and that they are not supporting enough creativity in the learning of mathematics in the classroom. Instead, this study finds that teachers from the graduate certificate program have a well-developed concept of mathematical creativity and that they are also resourceful about how to promote creativity in the learning of mathematics. This study provides researchers and teacher educators information on how to assist teachers to facilitate creativity and strong mathematics capability for children from an early age.

Advisor: Carolyn Pope Edwards