Abstract Prospective elementary teachers’ (N = 148) motivation to participate in whole-class discussions during mathematics content courses for teachers, as expressed in their own words on an open-ended questionnaire, were studied. Results indicated that prospective teachers were motivated by positive utility values for participating (to achieve a short-term goal of learning mathematics or a long-term goal of becoming a teacher), to demonstrate competence (to achieve performance-approach goals), or to help others (to achieve social goals). Negative utility values for participating were expressed by those who preferred to learn through actively listening. Five motivational profiles, as composed of interactions among motivational values, beliefs, goals and self-reported participation practices, were prevalent in this sample. Self-reported variations among participants’ utility values and participation practices suggested that prospective teachers engaged differentially in opportunities to learn to communicate mathematically. Results provide pedagogical learner knowledge for mathematics teacher educators.
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