Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Individualized Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program

Department or School/College

Interdisciplinary Studies Program

Committee Chair

Ke Wu

Commitee Members

James Hirstein, J. B. Alexander Ross, David R. Erickson, William Holben, Ruben Michael Ceballos


Astrobiology Education, Mathematics Education, MCK, PCK, Preservice educators


University of Montana


Early mathematical skills have long been hailed as a cornerstone and as the best predictor of later success in mathematics and literacy. This perception highlights the importance of elementary educator’s mathematical content knowledge (MCK) and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). This study explored a novel approach to motivating and facilitating preservice elementary educators’ engagement in an interdisciplinary context. Astrobiology is a growing interdisciplinary field with extraordinary educational potential. It has the potential to provide an exciting science framework structure to mathematics for preservice educators. Due to its interdisciplinary content, astrobiology offers preservice educators an opportunity to see math content through a science lens, an approach that may appeal to students with diverse interests. Although astrobiology research has been on the rise and has contributed greatly to the science field and to society, more research on astrobiology education in schools and colleges needs to be done to understand the best pedagogical approaches to such a diverse topic that encompasses multiple disciplines. Using a quasi-experimental design, this study examines whether the implementation of astrobiology modules focused on science questions could be used as an effective platform to deliver mathematical instruction that focuses on MCK and PCK. Specifically, this dissertation investigates the impact of such modules on preservice elementary educators’ MCK and PCK, both quantitatively and qualitatively. A comprehensive analysis involving nonparametric statistics and qualitative analysis found insufficient sample evidence at the alpha level of 0.05 (α=0.05) to warrant rejection that the astrobiology based mathematical modules had no effect on the preservice teachers’ MCK or PCK. However, one test found a positive correlation between the module and an increase in astrobiology knowledge. The qualitative examination exposed a decrease in the quality of responses for the MCK and PCK areas. This affect could be attributed to the limiting factors of the study. These factors have implications for both teaching future research in the intersection of astrobiology education and MCK and PCK.



© Copyright 2018 Meredith Kay Berthelson