The research reported here is part of a larger study and examines the cases of two individuals who were initially unable to achieve the required 60% passing grade on a Mathematics for Teaching Exam at the end of their first enrolment in an intermediate-level mathematics methods course. The exam is a graduation requirement of the teacher education program at a specific university in Ontario. The two individuals reacted in markedly different ways to the news that they had not met the mathematics requirement: one took it as an opportunity to grow and learn the mathematics she was aware she had never learned in her past; the other became angry and hostile, blaming his professor for his lack of success. In this article, we present the contrasts in approach between the cases, and how the responses influenced the participants’ further mathematics learning. As well, the somewhat unexpected impact that these responses had on the subjects’ peers is explored. Finally, we document concerns that were raised from the use of a high-stakes exam as a mandatory graduation requirement and consider reasons for the differing reactions.
Keywords: pre-service education, mathematics education, mathematics for teaching, high stakes examination