Narrated failures

Understanding pre-service teachers’ narrated failures in mathematics through identity work

Projektin kuvaus

The ‘Narrated failures’ project seeks to explore pre-service teachers’ narrated failures in mathematics in the context of their identity work. How do pre-service teachers understand failure in mathematics? What do they mean when they say ‘I have failed’ or ‘I have succeeded’? How does failure shape their mathematical identities (and vice versa)? This narrative research draws upon various sources of data (reflective essays, written narratives, group discussion) obtained from two cohorts of pre-service teachers (mathematics specialists and non-specialists). The project’s recent focus also extends to a broader range of (future) teachers, i.e. various subject teachers as well as teachers in higher education.

Failure is involved in many important discussions relating to mathematics education; however, its many modalities have been overlooked. Research attention is required, as individuals’ subjective experiences of failure and success seem to matter more in terms of how they view a particular subject and the emotions they experience in relation to it. Furthermore, the problem of failure in the context of mathematics is particularly relevant, as the subject is associated with personal and societal progress; still, more and more individuals are disengaging with the discipline.

Projektin koordinaattori

Oulun yliopisto

Projektin tulokset

The project’s findings provide:

  • Empirical evidence on various modalities of failure and allow for the theorising on its conceptual complexity
  • Bridge the existing traditions in mathematics education research that have too often been seen as disconnected, such as traditions relating to cognition, affect and identity
  • Suggestions for how discussions about failure can enrich teacher education pedagogies by bringing the multitude and complexity of pre-service teachers’ understandings of failure into their awareness and to help them develop their future teaching practices


Lutovac, S., & Flores, M. A. (Forthcoming). Implicit conceptions of assessment in pre-service teachers’ narratives of failure.

Lutovac, S., & Kaasila, R. (Forthcoming). What counts as failure in mathematics? Mapping out pre-service teachers’ experiences.

Lutovac, S., & Flores, M. A. (Forthcoming). ‘Those who fail should not be teachers’: Pre-service teachers’ understandings of failure and its link to their teacher identity development.

Lutovac, S., & Kaasila. R. (2021). ‘There are so many ways to fail’: pre-service elementary school teachers define failure in mathematics. ICME proceedings, Shanghai, China.

Lutovac, S. (2020). How failure shapes teacher identities: Pre-service elementary school and mathematics teachers’ narrated possible selves. Teaching and Teacher education.

Lutovac, S. (2019). Pre-service mathematics teachers’ narrated failure: stories of resilience. International Journal of Educational Research, 98, 237-244.

Lutovac, S. (2018). An opening to narrative understanding of failure. MaVi 24, The 24th international conference of mathematical views, University of Helsinki, Finland, 20-22 August 2018.


Sonja Lutovac

Sonja Lutovac

Postdoctoral Researcher