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Examining mathematics anxiety and mathematics teaching self-efficacy of elementary school teachers in a Hawaii school district
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Content
Running head: EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 1
2017 Jason Akoniokalani Franks
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY AND MATHEMATICS TEACHING SELF-
EFFICACY OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS IN A HAWAII SCHOOL DISTRICT
by
Jason Akoniokalani Franks
A Dissertation Presented to the
FACULTY OF THE USC ROSSIER SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
In Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirement for the Degree
DOCTOR OF EDUCATION
December 2017
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 2
Acknowledgements
First, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the faculty and staff of the USC
Rossier School of Education. The chance to study and grow as a professional in a top notch
doctoral program is a once in a life time opportunity. Thank you to my chairperson, Dr. Chung,
for seeing me through to the end of my journey and to the rest of my committee, Dr. Tobey and
Dr. Datta, your feedback and flexibility were invaluable. I want to thank Dr. Keim for his help
in the design of my study and research. I am positive that the knowledge I have gained from this
program will be influential in my future success.
Mahlo palena ʻole to the members of the Hawaii cohort of 2013. The journey was filled
with stimulating discussions, long hours on group projects, laughter and a whole lot of snacks. I
could not have asked for better classmates and colleagues to go through the program with.
Learning about and from each of you has broadened my outlook on life and I am a better person
because of our time together.
For all the technical and emotional support I received, I would like to thank Monique
DesJarlais. Her aid in editing and guiding my thought process were instrumental in the
completion of this dissertation.
I would like to thank my family: my parents, sisters, brother and nephews for supporting
me spiritually and emotionally throughout the writing of this dissertation and my life in general. I
am honored and blessed to have them in my life. Above all, I thank God because through Him
all things are possible.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 3
Table of Contents
List of Tables ......................................................................................................................................... 4
List of Figures ........................................................................................................................................ 5
Abstract .................................................................................................................................................. 6
CHAPTER ONE: OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY ................................................................................ 7
Statement of the Problem ............................................................................................................... 8
Background of the Problem ........................................................................................................... 9
Theoretical Framework ................................................................................................................ 10
Purpose of the Study ..................................................................................................................... 11
Significance of the Study ............................................................................................................. 12
Limitations & Delimitations ........................................................................................................ 13
Definition of Terms ...................................................................................................................... 14
Organization of the Study ............................................................................................................ 15
CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF LITERATURE ................................................................................ 16
Mathematics Anxiety ................................................................................................................... 17
Definitions ................................................................................................................... 17
Mathematics Anxiety in Elementary Teachers ........................................................... 21
Instruments Measuring Attitudes toward Mathematics .............................................. 24
Self-Efficacy ................................................................................................................................. 26
Teacher Self-Efficacy ................................................................................................. 26
Mathematical Teaching Self-Efficacy ........................................................................ 30
Mathematics Teacher Preparation ............................................................................... 31
Summary of the Literature ........................................................................................................... 32
Purpose of the Study and Research Questions ........................................................................... 33
CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY ............................................................................................ 35
Sample and Population ................................................................................................................. 35
Instrumentation ............................................................................................................................. 37
McAnallen Anxiety in Mathematics Teaching Survey (MAMTS)............................. 37
Mathematics Attitude Factor (MAF) .......................................................................... 38
Mathematics Teaching Self-Efficacy Factor (MTSEF) .............................................. 39
Procedure ...................................................................................................................................... 39
Data Analysis ................................................................................................................................ 40
CHAPTER FOUR: RESULTS ............................................................................................................ 42
Analyses of Research Questions .................................................................................................. 42
Mathematical Attitudes Factor (MAF) ....................................................................... 44
Math Teaching Self-Efficacy Factor (MTSEF) .......................................................... 44
Analysis of Open-Ended Responses............................................................................................ 45
CHAPTER FIVE: FINDINGS AND IMPLICATIONS ...................................................................... 48
Summary of Findings ................................................................................................................... 49
Implications ................................................................................................................................... 52
Recommendations ........................................................................................................................ 54
Conclusion .................................................................................................................................... 56
References ............................................................................................................................................ 58
Appendix A: Final Math Anxiety Qualtrics Survey with Informed Consent ..................................... 72
Appendix B: MAMTS Survey ............................................................................................................. 76
Appendix C: Final IRB Approval ........................................................................................................ 81
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 4
List of Tables
Table 1: Frequency Distribution of Teacher Participants………………………………………..36
Table 2: Means and Standard Deviations for the MAF and MTSEF…………………………….43
Table 3: Multiple Regression Predicting Mathematics Attitudes Factor……………………...…44
Table 4: Multiple Regression Predicting Mathematics Teaching Self-Efficacy Factor…………45
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 5
List of Figures
Figure 1: Albert Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory, Self-Efficacy Model…………...………..11
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 6
Abstract
Mathematics anxiety has been found to relate to mathematics performance in both
children and adults. This study investigated mathematics anxiety and mathematics teaching self-
efficacy in elementary school teachers. An adapted version of a researcher-developed instrument
called the McAnallen Anxiety in Mathematics Teaching Survey (MAMTS) was administered to
a sample of elementary school teachers from a complex area within the Hawaii Department of
Education. Survey results were analyzed using descriptive statistics, correlation, and regression.
The data analysis determined a strong statistical relationship between math anxiety and math
teaching self-efficacy in elementary teachers as well as a breakdown of the variables that
predicted anxiety and efficacy. Current grade level taught and years of teaching were found to be
the strongest predictors of each construct. The knowledge gained can result in research based
implications for practice and policy in restructuring teacher education programs for preservice
teachers and improving professional development and other teacher interventions for current
teachers.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 7
CHAPTER ONE
OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY
Math has long been a core subject that causes fear and loathing in students, but is a skill
that no one can live without. Studies have found that between 25-50% of the general American
population experience math anxiety (Bernstein, Reilly, & Cote-Bonanno, 1992; Burns, 1998;
Jones, 2001), indicating a disconnect in the institution of education, especially considering some
research has shown that only a small percentage of Americans have had positive school
experiences with math (Jackson & Leffingwell, 1999). Yet math is even more central to
education today, particularly with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards
(CCSS) and the high demand for teachers in this core content area. This dissertation will analyze
mathematics anxiety in teachers and the relationship between mathematics anxiety and efficacy
in teaching elementary mathematics (math).
The general population is not concerned with their math skills on a daily basis; however
in the case of those in the education sector, many preservice elementary teachers continue to
have anxiety about math as they transition to in-service elementary teachers; however research is
mixed on whether this impacts their ability to teach math effectively (Battista, 1986). Math
anxiety has been reported to affect between 17% (Chavez & Widmer, 1982) and 40% (Meyer,
1980) of all elementary teachers. Since relatively little is known about math anxiety experienced
by in-service teachers, including the extent to which it exists and affects their ability to teach
elementary math, more current research conducted with in-service teachers is necessary to better
understand and investigate this important topic.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 8
Statement of the Problem
In today’s educational climate of accountability, the emphasis on testing and student
achievement places a great burden on a teacher’s responsibility to effectively teach the math that
students should know and learn. As the emphasis on teacher accountability increases, so too
does the potential for higher anxiety in elementary math teachers. Many experts have
hypothesized that the math anxiety of elementary teachers may impact the achievement of
elementary students in math, but very few studies have been completed to prove or disprove this
hypothesis. One study conducted investigated student achievement as it relates to teacher math
anxiety; however, it was found to have methodological and analytical problems that muddled the
results (Schofield, 1981). In order to clarify the relationship between teacher math anxiety and
student math achievement, a connection should be established with empirical evidence. These
relationships need to be studied to understand the correlation between teacher math anxiety and
student math achievement, and to potentially have a positive impact on pre-service teacher
education programs.
Elementary teachers that have math anxiety as well as a low sense of mathematical
teaching efficacy may become more reluctant to implement mathematical instructional practices
deemed necessary for student mastery (Kahle, 2008). By recognizing the factors that negatively
affect teachers’ instructional practices in math, efforts can be made to alleviate and eliminate
some of the negative influences (Smith, 2007). While extensive research on math anxiety and
self-efficacy has been conducted exclusively, not enough is known about the impact of math
anxiety and self-efficacy on the mathematical instructional practices of elementary school
teachers. Specifically, the research conducted on mathematical self-efficacy and mathematical
teaching self-efficacy has been limited (Hackett & Betz, 1989; Kahle, 2008; Pajares & Miller,
1995), with no studies of the two efficacies along with math anxiety in relation to elementary
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 9
school teachers’ instructional practices being explored. Therefore, this study examines the
relationship between math anxiety and teacher self-efficacy in teaching math among in-service
teachers.
Background of the Problem
Several different definitions exist about math anxiety as well as different methods of
measurement, which are summarized in Chapter Two. Some researchers hypothesize that math
anxiety is a catalyst that leads to the avoidance of math, followed by a failure to learn math
skills, resulting in negative career and school-related decisions (Wigfield & Meece, 1988).
Tobias and Weissbrod (1980) noted that math anxiety is a feeling of panic, resulting in
helplessness, paralysis, and mental disorganization in some people when they are asked to solve
a math problem. Similarly, different characteristics may accompany math anxiety and may
include dislike, worry, and fear, with specific behavioral indicators such as tension, frustration,
distress, helplessness, and mental disorganization (Richardson & Suinn, 1972; Wigfield &
Meece, 1988).
There is also data documenting that math anxiety can stem from poor teacher preparation
(Kleckler, 1999) and often results in teacher frustration (Cornell, 1999). Additionally, within the
larger context of general teaching efficacy, there is an emerging body of research focusing
specifically on mathematical teaching self-efficacy (Kahle, 2008). Due to the research findings
regarding the influence of teachers’ efficacy in the classroom, the relationship between
mathematical teaching efficacy and elementary teachers’ math anxiety needs to be explored
collectively to improve teacher education programs for preservice teachers and professional
development for in-service teachers.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 10
Theoretical Framework
The foundation for this study is based on Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory,
specifically the construct of self-efficacy. Bandura’s social cognitive theory described, “How
people judge their capabilities and how their self-precepts of efficacy affect their motivation and
behavior” (Bandura, 1986, p. 391). Thus, the way people interpreted their past behavior informed
and changed their future behavior (Li & Dunan, 2005). The participants of this study were
measured on their self-reported math anxiety and math teaching self-efficacy. In other words,
measuring how participants’ past attitudes and perceptions of math affect their future confidence
in teaching math. Research on math anxiety is often aligned with beliefs, behaviors, and
attitudes, and has often focused on the relationship of that anxiety to a person’s past math
experiences (Jackson & Leffingwell, 1999).
In 1977, Bandura, introduced the concept of self-efficacy or “beliefs in one’s capacity to
organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments” (Bandura,
1977, p. 3). Ashton, Webb, and Doda (1983) defined efficacy in terms of outcome expectations
and efficacy expectations based on Bandura’s (1986) cognitive social learning theory. Bandura
differentiated between outcome expectations and efficacy expectations. Outcome expectations
are beliefs that certain actions would produce certain results. Efficacy expectations are beliefs
about their capacity for performing the actions. Bandura (1977) suggested that both facets must
be taken into account when measuring efficacy. Past experiences and emotional state are
integral in forming these beliefs. Figure 1 shows the relationship that past experiences have on
self-efficacy and in turn future performance and behaviors. Understanding how anxiety and
attitude about math is linked to teaching self-efficacy can help shape future performance in
teaching.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 11
Figure 1: Albert Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory, Self-Efficacy Model
Almost 30 years later, Kahle (2008) highlighted that self-efficacy guides an individual’s
choices regarding any personal skill or ability, job success and execution, and individual class
selection for higher education because these things are guided by a person’s belief in his or her
own abilities. Kahle continued by noting that self-efficacy makes up a large part of the
educational environment in that it affects academic goals, motivation, effort, interest, and self-
concept of students and teachers. While efficacy is the way individuals perceive the world and
themselves, the impact is far reaching and interpersonal. Teachers directly and indirectly shape
the perspectives of their students who are making their own efficacy, particularly in regards to
math, which in this case, is observed as being highly influential.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to explore math anxiety in elementary teachers who teach
math and its relationship to mathematical teaching efficacy. Such an examination may contribute
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 12
to research-based implications for practice and policy in teacher education both at the preservice
and in-service levels.
The following research questions guided the study:
1. Is there a relationship between math anxiety and math teaching self-efficacy in
elementary school teachers?
2. To what extent can variance in elementary teachers' self-reported math anxiety and
math teaching self-efficacy be explained by demographic characteristics including
gender, grade level taught, years of teaching experience, certification status, and level
of math completed?
Quantitative methods were used in this study of elementary teachers to investigate the
math anxiety they experience and how that math anxiety relates to self-efficacy teaching math.
Survey research methods were used to obtain demographic and self-report data that were
analyzed using descriptive statistics, correlation, and regression. Open-ended responses were
analyzed for themes.
Significance of the Study
The results of this study can be used by elementary school administrators, teacher
mentors, coaches and instructional staff to improve math professional development for in-service
elementary school teachers. Additionally, teacher education programs can use the results to
bolster their math methods courses for the development of preservice elementary math teachers.
By identifying the relationship between math anxiety and math teaching self-efficacy,
elementary school teachers can be encouraged to find ways to alleviate their math anxiety and
increase mathematical teaching self-efficacy through implementing best practices to prevent
influences of math anxiety on students. Also, by finding which sub-sections of the population of
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 13
elementary teachers, if any, are most likely to suffer from math anxiety, professional
development for math teachers can be more targeted. The end result is ultimately to improve
math instruction in elementary schools for the benefit of students.
Limitations
The limitations of this research include:
1. The use of survey methods include validity threats, the most important being
problems associated with self-reporting by study participants. A combination
of methods were used to minimize these threats, including assuring teachers of
their anonymity and the confidential nature of their responses.
2. The content of the survey may ‘cue’ the participant to select an answer that
theoretically sounds more appropriate rather than select his/her personal
opinion.
3. This study includes elementary school teachers in grades K-6. Most of the
participants teach math in one grade level, some in multiple grades and less
that do not teach math.
Delimitations
The delimitations of this research include:
1. The study includes teachers in grades K-6 from a selected school complex in
the state of Hawaii that teach either self-contained or math alone.
2. The study includes the school complex that responded as a willing participant.
3. Only the variables of math anxiety and mathematical teaching self-efficacy of
elementary school teachers as measured by the selected instrument were
studied.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 14
Definition of Terms
For the purpose of this study the following definitions were used:
Mathematics Anxiety: A tense feeling that interferes with the manipulation and
understanding of how to work with numbers causing a negative attitude towards math, avoidance
of mathematical thinking, limited career choices, lack of self-confidence, and fear of the content
(Ashcraft, 2002; Richardson & Suinn, 1972).
Self-Efficacy: A person’s perceived ability that he or she is capable of accomplishing a
task within a specific context (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997).
Mathematics Teaching Self-Efficacy: An individual’s perception of his or her ability to
effectively teach math, and promote student learning, in alignment with personal confidence and
content knowledge (Bandura, 1986; Kahle, 2008; Woolfolk Hoy & Spero, 2005).
In-service Elementary School Teacher: Teachers currently teaching in grades K-6 at an
elementary school.
Preservice Elementary School Teacher: Students in colleges or universities majoring in
elementary education.
Complexes and Complex Areas: The state of Hawaii is comprised of one school district
that spans the major Hawaiian Islands. All Hawaii Department of Education schools are rolled
into what is known as a Complex: A high school and the elementary and middle schools that
feed into it. Anywhere from two to four Complexes are grouped into a Complex Area, which has
its own Complex Area Superintendent (CAS) and support staff ("Hawaii DOE | complex area
directory," 2016).
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 15
Organization of the Study
The research study was designed to investigate the relationship between math anxiety and
math teaching self-efficacy among elementary school teachers. The study is presented in five
chapters. Chapter I provides an introduction and overview regarding the purpose of the study, a
statement of the problem, key definitions, and an overview of the entire study. The literature
review in Chapter II includes an overview of math anxiety and the impact of math anxiety on
elementary teachers’ perceptions related to teaching math. Chapter II also includes additional
research on self-efficacy and more specifically math teaching self-efficacy and how this
construct can influence instructional practices in the classroom. Chapter III outlines the research
methodology using descriptive statistics, a correlation model, and a multiple regression research
design. Chapter IV provides an analysis of the data regarding the research findings, and Chapter
V offers the findings, conclusions, and implications of the research study.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 16
CHAPTER TWO
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
A large body of evidence exists showing that classroom teachers are most influential to
student achievement (Darling-Hammond, 2004). There is also a great deal of research showing
that highly efficacious teachers are cognizant of the fact that what they say, do, and teach
influence a student’s learning, self-efficacy, motivation, performance, and academic achievement
(Mujis & Reynolds, 2002; Schunk, 1989). While teachers in general are aware of their direct
impact on student learning, very little research specifically connects teachers’ math anxiety to
teachers’ self-efficacy, mathematical self-efficacy, or mathematical teaching self-efficacy (Bush,
1989; Cornell, 1999; Jackson & Leffingwell, 1999; Karp, 1991). Early research regarding
efficacy focused on general self-efficacy, and then more specifically to the topics of
mathematical self-efficacy and mathematical teaching self-efficacy (Ashton & Webb, 1986;
Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997; Gibson & Dembo, 1984; Mujis, & Reynolds, 2002; Kahle, 2008;
Pintrich & Schunk, 2002; Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990). A body of research indicated that the
concepts of anxiety and self-efficacy, including mathematical self-efficacy and mathematical
teaching self-efficacy, influenced teachers’ instructional practices as separate factors (Alsup,
2003; Ashton & Webb, 1986; Brady & Bowd, 2005; Enochs, Smith & Huinker, 2000; Klein,
2004; Sparks, 1986; Starko & Schack, 1989; Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990). Together, these studies
provide a firm foundation to examine the ideas of math teaching and student learning. Despite
the amount of research done in these areas, there is a deficiency of research studying the
connections between elementary school teachers’ math anxiety, mathematical self-efficacy,
mathematical teaching self-efficacy, and instructional practices.
In order to fully grasp the relationship between anxiety and efficacy and teaching
practices, a review of the literature was conducted. This chapter presents findings from current
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 17
research in the area of math in elementary schools, particularly studies relating to math anxiety,
math self-efficacy and math teaching self-efficacy. Although there was an overlap among the
selected topics, this review of the literature was divided into two key areas: (a) Mathematics
Anxiety, and (b) Self-Efficacy (including Mathematical Teaching Self-Efficacy).
Mathematics Anxiety
Definitions
The majority of math anxiety research recognizes that individuals who have negative
feelings and attitudes towards math have more difficulties and performance problems with math
material due to their anxiety. Math anxiety has been defined in many different ways, including as
a fear of math that usually originates from negative experiences in math either at school or at
home (Richardson & Suinn, 1972). Lyons and Beilock (2011) described math anxiety as the
presence of feelings of pressure and trepidation towards tasks involving the manipulation of
numbers and the solving of mathematical problems in the real world and classroom settings.
Individuals who have math anxiety struggle with the subject not necessarily because of low
ability level, but rather due to an emotional and psychological response to the material (Ashcraft
& Krause, 2007). Richardson and Suinn (1972), who developed the Mathematical Anxiety
Rating Scale (MARS), defined math anxiety as "feelings of tension and anxiety that interfere
with the manipulation of mathematical problems in a wide variety of ordinary life and academic
situations" (p. 544).
Although math is not limited to academics, a majority of the population first experience it
in the classroom under the guidance of an elementary school teacher. Therefore, math anxiety
can be a life-long impediment to math learning and achievement (Lyons & Beilock, 2011).
Characteristics of math anxiety may include a dislike of math, uneasiness, and fear with specific
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 18
behavioral indicators that include pressure, frustration, anguish, powerlessness, and mental
disorganization (Richardson & Suinn, 1972). Fennema and Sherman (1976) believed that math
related stress was accompanied by symptoms, including terror, uneasiness, and an increased
heart rate. Math anxiety, while stemming from a place of learning, can become a physical
problem. The many definitions of math anxiety indicate that anyone affected can experience fear,
stress, a nervous stomach, humiliation, clammy hands, failure to cope, breathing difficulties, and
a tough time concentrating (Burns, 1998; Bursal & Paznokas, 2006; Dutton & Dutton, 1991;
Hembree. 1990).
Thus, math anxiety is both a physical and emotional response to a fear of the content
area. Handler (1990) stated that math anxiety represents an anxious state brought on by fear of
failing when attempting to learn or demonstrate the learning of math. Hendel and Davis (1978)
theorized that math anxiety leads to the avoidance of math, followed by failure to learn math
skills, and thus negative school and career related choices. Gilroy (2002) noted that individuals
with such an intense anxiety towards math tend to avoid taking higher level math classes, which
will ultimately lead to handicapping themselves both in their daily lives and in their job
opportunities. Tobias (1978) described math anxiety as "sudden death" for some people (p. 46)
and later defined it as "the panic, helplessness, paralysis, and mental disorganization that arises
among some people when they are required to solve a mathematical problem" (p. 63). As noted
in numerous studies, the pressure and stress that individuals experience due to math often times
prevents people from developing strong mathematical foundations or really any positive
relationships to math at all. This has a detrimental effect on both teachers who suffer from math
anxiety, as they cannot form a connection to the content they are trying to impart on their
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 19
students, and the students who may not be afforded an opportunity to build a positive math
foundation within the classroom.
When individuals do not establish a positive perspective of math, there are 3 common
types of math anxiety, as identified by Ferguson (1986), that can become manifest: math test
anxiety or the nervousness that accompanies the anticipation of taking and receiving math tests;
numerical anxiety or fear of number manipulation; and abstraction anxiety or stress associated
with abstract mathematical content. Kogelman and Warren (1978) described mathematical test
anxiety as an adverse reaction to math, while Byrd (1982) described it as any circumstance
where a person experiences anxiety when confronted with math in any way. Moreover, Gresham
(2004) and Bursal and Paznokas (2006) described math anxiety as a lack of practical
understanding and/or an irrational fear of math, often leading to avoidance of the subject. Zettle
and Raines (2002) defined math anxiety as a state of discomfort that follows situations involving
mathematical tasks that are seen as threatening to self-esteem, and that can create a negative
attitude towards math. While the specific trigger – testing, numbers, etc. – varies between
individuals, the response is real and can prevent the development of skills needed to succeed in
academia and ordinary life, thus preventing math efficacy in individuals.
Lacking the efficacy to succeed in math can be further explained by the four phase cycle
of math anxiety described by Robertson (1991). In phase one, a person experiences some sort of
negative reaction to a mathematical situation. The reaction then triggers phase two, in which the
person avoids any mathematical situation. Avoidance is followed by phase three in which the
individual is poorly prepared in math, later resulting in phase four, poor performance in math.
The continual cycle of negative reaction, avoidance, poor preparation, and poor performance
results in an individual’s belief that one can never succeed in math. Unfortunately, research by
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 20
Robertson (1991) suggests that a person is rarely able to break the cycle. As students of math
persist in this cycle, their math anxiety is carried with them as they progress through their
education.
This cycle of math anxiety and poor academic performance can be further observed in the
biological reaction individuals have in regards to math. Handler (1990) implied that math anxiety
may result in a high level of emotional interference that can disrupt memory. A study done by
Hopko, Ashcraft, Gute, Ruggeris, and Lewis (1999) found that math-anxious individuals may
have a deficient inhibition mechanism resulting in the individual’s working memory resources
being expended more by task-irrelevant distractors. According to the researchers, explicit
memory performance was poorer for high-anxious individuals. In a similar study, Ashcraft and
Kirk (2001) found that it was not necessary to use every day arithmetic and math problems to
trigger mathematics-anxiety reactions, in some individuals it can be triggered by simple
numerical counting processes. Their explanation suggested that when an individual’s anxiety is
stirred the result is a decrease in the available working-memory capacity. Ashcraft and Kirk
(2001) stated that students who do poorly on math exams say that they became confused, had
trouble focusing on the math questions asked, and dwelt on how poor they are at math as a
reason for their low grades. The researchers summed up the study by explaining that
"Mathematics anxiety disrupts the on-going, task-relevant activities of working memory, slowing
down performance and degrading its accuracy" (p. 236). Once math anxiety has been triggered,
the effects are far reaching impacting confidence, physical workings, and even biological
connections. As math is proven to be influential on the whole person, addressing math anxiety in
teachers first will help them expose their students to positive experiences with math to,
eventually create successful individuals.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 21
Mathematics Anxiety in Elementary Teachers
While classroom teachers are the most influential factor impacting student achievement
(Darling-Hammond, 2004; Hidi, 2001), an unfortunately disproportionately large percentage of
elementary teachers have been reported to have high levels of math anxiety (Levine, 1996),
which is a cause for concern. Since math anxiety is not just a “student” problem (Beilock,
Gunderson, Ramirez, & Levine, 2010), preservice teachers are also at high risk for math anxiety,
experiencing higher levels of math anxiety than other university students (Harper & Daane 1998;
Hembree, 1990; Kelly & Tomhave, 1985; Lazarus, 1974; Sells, 1973; Trujillo & Hadfield, 1999;
Vinson, 2001; Wood, 1988). According to Hembree (1990), preservice elementary teachers have
the highest levels of math anxiety compared with any other major on university campuses.
Studies have also shown that preservice teachers with high levels of math anxiety have
demonstrated low teacher efficacy about teaching math (Swars, Daane, & Giesen, 2006) and low
confidence in teaching elementary math (Bursal & Paznokas, 2006). As such, elementary
education majors have reported having lower attitudes towards math than those in the general
college population (Buhlman & Young, 1982; Emenaker, 1996; Larson, 1983), and have greater
math anxiety when the subject either is, or is perceived to be, under evaluation (Wood, 1988).
Buhlman and Young (1982) hypothesized that "in general, the kind of person who is drawn to
elementary teaching is not necessarily the kind who enjoys math…" (p. 55). These researchers
found that most elementary education students identified math as their worst subject and felt they
had little or no need for a higher level of mathematical skills beyond numerical computation.
In order to address anxiety and the identified areas of growth in preservice teachers,
American researchers (Ellsworth & Buss, 2000; Silva & Roddick, 2001; Trujillo & Hadfield,
1999) examined the source of math anxiety in preservice teachers, finding that most students
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 22
indicated the influential role of the teacher in the development of mathematical understanding,
placing them on a range from "enabling", where the teacher was patient and understanding and
giving full explanations and answers, to "disabling", where the teacher was intimidating to
students, not fully explaining concepts or not considering students' feelings. The researchers also
found other factors that contributed to the increase of math anxiety such as the ways math was
presented and taught; self-perceptions; family influences such as parental attitudes towards math
and supports for studying, and math test anxiety. Many of the students in these studies described
a trend of dread, disappointment, and later avoidance of math (Ellsworth & Buss, 2000; Silva &
Roddick, 2001; Trujillo & Hadfield, 1999). Thus, as preservice teachers transition into the role of
elementary teachers, the cycle of math anxiety as identified by Robertson (1991) continues.
The challenging result of the cycle of math anxiety is the negative impact on classroom
instructional practices because the teachers are found to spend less time planning and
implementing math-related activities (Swetman, Munday, & Windham, 1993). Schmidt and
Buchmann (1983) suggested that teachers who do not enjoy math spend 50 percent less time
teaching this subject than teachers who feel comfortable with this subject area. Reducing the
amount of instructional time needed for students to grasp and master concepts, especially in
elementary school can be detrimental to all students, not just those that have math anxiety
(Schmidt & Buchmann, 1983). Also, teachers with math anxiety tend to gloss over areas in the
math curriculum that they themselves struggle with, leading to gaps in student learning
(Gresham, 2004). Rather than breaking out of the cycle to ensure their students do not fall into
the same challenges, teachers having negative perspectives of math tend to create an atmosphere
of anxiety in their own classrooms. Math anxious teachers often exhibit the characteristics and
behaviors in their instructional practices that caused their own math anxiety, and the cycle of
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 23
math anxiety is passed down to the next generation (Alsup, 2003; Beilock et al., 2010; Brady &
Bowd, 2005; Burns, 1998). Seeing the cycle passed down from teacher to student is particularly
troubling as it perpetuates the low math achievement of future generations of students.
Contributing factors to math anxiety experienced by teachers as students include teaching
strategies, techniques, and policies, all of which persist in the approaches teachers take within
their own math instruction thus having a considerable effect on increasing math anxiety in their
students. Furner and Berman (2003) explained that a one size fits all method of instruction,
repetitious instruction, and the use of assignments as punishment contributes to creating math
anxiety. Additional research has indicated that teachers with negative attitudes toward math
frequently rely on teaching algorithms while neglecting cognitive thought processes and
mathematical reasoning (Karp 1991), which limit critical and creative thinking in students.
Furthermore, teachers’ hostility, gender bias, callous attitudes, humiliation strategies in handling
students, and lack of enthusiasm have all been shown to be contributing factors to math anxiety
(Furner & Duffy, 2002; Jackson & Leffingwell, 1999). Unfortunately, research suggests that
despite having their own adverse experience with math, teachers are ill-prepared to provide a
more positive math environment for their students.
Although the cycle of math anxiety is rarely broken, Liu (2008) investigated the use of
online discussions of anxiety toward teaching math in elementary teacher candidates using a
small sample of 39 preservice teachers primarily directed toward the reduction of math anxiety in
methods courses. After 8 weeks of online discussion, the preservice teachers then completed a
math anxiety questionnaire and the math anxiety of the participants had decreased. The
researcher hypothesized that since math anxiety is a learned behavior, it can be lessened over
time. In another study of math anxiety in elementary teachers (Widmer & Chavez, 1982), the
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 24
researchers surveyed the relationship between math anxiety and gender, type of training, and
how recent the training occurred, finding a significant relationship between math anxiety and
perceived type of training.
In recognizing that there are many factors contributing to math anxiety, research was
conducted to examine which particular groups have higher levels of math anxiety (Battista, 1986;
Bursal & Paznokas, 2006; Hembree, 1990). Researchers found that female college students and
students who have previously received lower than average or lower than expected scores in math
classes show higher levels of math anxiety (Battista, 1986; Betz, 1978; Bursal & Paznokas,
2006; Calvert, 1981). Also, there is higher math anxiety demonstrated among the females
majoring in elementary education than in males and other college students majoring in different
fields (Ashcraft, 2002; Brady & Bowd, 2005; Vinson, 2001). Therefore, the cycle continues as
female preservice teachers that have a high level of math anxiety become in-service elementary
school teachers with high levels of math anxiety, which then impacts their teaching of math
content. According to Beilock et al. (2010), female elementary school teachers with math
anxiety are more likely to pass on their math anxiety to their female students. One of the reasons
cited in the study was that students, especially in the primary grades, emulate the behaviors and
attitudes of same-gender vs. opposite-gender adults. Girls may be more likely than boys to
notice their female teacher’s fears and anxiety about math resulting in a negative impact on their
math achievement. Thus, female teachers’ math anxiety has consequences for the math
achievement of girls in early elementary school grades.
Instruments Measuring Attitudes toward Mathematics
As early as the 1950’s, researchers almost exclusively focused math research on the
attitudes relating to the enjoyment of math. The Dutton Scale was one of the first instruments to
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 25
measure “feelings” toward arithmetic (Dutton, 1954; Dutton & Blum, 1968). Other
unidimensional math scales were developed by Gladstone, Deal, and Drevdahl (1960) and a year
later one was developed by Aiken and Dreger (1961). Aiken (1974) also constructed several
multidimensional scales to measure both the enjoyment and value of math. Michaels and
Forsyth (1977) and Sandman (1980) developed different multidimensional scales to measure
enjoyment and perceptions of the value of math. These early scales were formed with the basic
intent to determine if an individual enjoyed math.
In 1972, Richardson and Suinn developed the first scale to measure math anxiety. The
Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale (MARS) was developed to exclusively measure math anxiety.
Six factors were included in the original MARS: General Evaluation Anxiety, Everyday
Numerical Anxiety, Passive Observation Anxiety, Performance Anxiety, Mathematics Test
Anxiety, and Problem Solving Anxiety (Bessant, 1995). However, Alexander and Martray
(1989) reported two major limitations, the length of the scale and the time required to administer
and score the MARS. Because of the limitations to the MARS, Alexander and Martray (1989)
developed the Revised Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale (RMARS) which only included 25
items as opposed to the original MARS that had 98 items.
Another instrument used in research to measure math attitudes was developed in 1976 by
Fennema and Sherman; the Fennema-Sherman Mathematics Attitude Scales became one of the
most popular instruments utilized by researchers. The Fennema-Sherman Scales includes nine
separate instruments: Attitude Toward Success in Mathematics Scale, Mathematics as a Male
Domain Scale, Mother Scale, Father Scale, Teacher Scale, Confidence in Learning Mathematics
Scale, Mathematics Anxiety Scale, Effectance Motivation Scale in Mathematics, and the
Mathematics Usefulness Scale. Although this scale was popular and one of the first scales to
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 26
include parental influences on math, it included 108 items and took 45 minutes for participants to
fill out; furthermore due to questions of validity and reliability another scale was needed (Suinn
& Edwards, 1982). Kazelskis (1998) identified six dimensions of math anxiety when he studied
the three most widely used math anxiety scales. The six dimensions were Mathematics Course
Anxiety, Mathematics Test Anxiety, Numerical Anxiety, Positive Affect Toward Mathematics,
Negative Affect Toward Mathematics, and Worry. In realizing the need for a shorter and more
valid and reliable scale, Tapia and Marsh (2004) developed the Attitudes Toward Mathematics
Inventory (ATMI) that measures self-confidence, value of math, enjoyment of math, and
motivation but omitted anxiety toward math. While there are numerous scales that address math
anxiety or attitudes towards math, there is an obvious need for a scale that addresses their effect
on teaching.
Through implementation of these scales, research has shown that individuals who feel
anxious about math develop the attitude from a negative experience in school, whether it be from
a teacher or some kind of failure and shame. Teachers are not immune to math anxiety, which in
fact can affect how they teach and interact with students when teaching math. What role, then,
does self-efficacy play in a teacher’s attitude or anxiety level towards math?
Self-Efficacy
Teacher Self-Efficacy
In order to help determine important factors in teacher quality and motivation, numerous
educational studies looked at teacher efficacy and confidence. Teacher self-efficacy is a
construct that builds upon Bandura’s (1977) social cognitive theory. Barfield and Burlingame
(1974) defined efficacy as “a personality trait that enables one to deal effectively with the world”
(p. 10). Researchers from the Rand Corporation defined efficacy as “the extent to which the
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 27
teacher believes he or she has the capacity to affect student performance” (McLaughlin & Marsh,
1978, p. 84). Ashton (1985) stated teachers’ sense of efficacy as their belief in their ability to
have a positive effect on student learning. Guskey (1988) defined teacher efficacy as the
teacher’s feelings of responsibility for student learning outcomes. A teacher’s self-efficacy is a
teacher’s judgments or beliefs about his or her capabilities to bring about desired outcomes of
student engagement and learning, even students who were unmotivated or difficult (Armor et al.,
1976; Bandura, 1977). Teacher self-efficacy beliefs determined how they felt, behaved, thought,
and motivated themselves (Bandura, 1994). The terms efficacy, self-efficacy, and sense of
efficacy were often used interchangeably to describe the level in which a teacher believed he or
she could have an impact on student performance (McLaughlin & Marsh, 1978). Throughout the
various studies, teachers recognized the importance of their role in the lives of their students.
As teachers realize their influence on student learning and student achievement, it is
important for them to remember that their confidence level in their teaching abilities has a direct
effect on the ability and desire of their students to learn. The application of Bandura’s (1986)
theory of self-efficacy to the study of teachers reinforced the finding that,
...teachers who believe student learning can be influenced by effective teaching
(outcomes expectancy beliefs) and who also have confidence in their own teaching
abilities (self-efficacy beliefs) should persist longer, provide a greater academic focus in
the classroom and exhibit different types of feedback than teachers who have lower
expectations concerning their ability to influence student learning. (Gibson & Dembo,
1984, p. 570)
Bandura (1986) also stated that an individual’s motivation was based upon his or her
aptitude while performing actions (outcome expectations); teachers with a high sense of self-
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 28
efficacy, regardless of obstacles and setbacks, remained motivated (Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990).
Bandura stated that the beliefs a person held in regards to their ability to attain specific outcomes
dictated their behavior with respect to achieving those outcomes. Behaviors exhibited in teacher
self-efficacy have been shown to have a relationship to persistence on a task, risk taking, and the
use of innovation related to efficacy (Ashton, 1985; Ashton & Webb, 1986). Positive behaviors
of teachers, according to Enochs, Smith and Huinker (2000), were a result of teacher personal
self-efficacy, a belief in one’s ability to teach effectively, as well as the belief that effective
teaching would have a positive effect on student learning. Bandura (1977) believed the higher
one rated their ability at achieving a particular result, the more likely it is that they would attain
this result. Given that self-efficacy is a predictor of an individual’s perseverance, resilience and
the belief that he or she may successfully accomplish a specific task, it is a reasonable conclusion
that teachers with higher levels of self-efficacy may work harder and more effectively under
adverse conditions than those with lower self-efficacy (Bandura, 2001). Thus, teachers who
believe in their math skills are necessary to teach students who will develop confidence in math
learning and application.
In relationship to teaching and classroom instruction, researchers focused on self-efficacy
and outcome expectancy beliefs (Ashton & Webb, 1986; Gibson & Dembo, 1984; Guskey, 1988;
Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990) to identify ways in which the latter influenced teachers to utilize a
variety of instructional strategies. Czemiak (1990) stated that highly efficacious teachers were
more likely to use inquiry and student-centered teaching strategies as opposed to teachers with a
low sense of teacher efficacy who were more likely to use teacher directed strategies that
included lecture and reading from the text. These student-centered instructional practices require
the teacher to be confident in their abilities to guide and redirect as necessary, which may be
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 29
missing from teachers with low math confidence. Therefore, when teachers have a high sense of
self-efficacy, they are more likely to be inventive or creative in the classroom to engage student
learning and increase student achievement.
Furthermore, teachers with high teacher efficacy tended to believe in themselves and
work consciously and diligently to help all students learn, even the difficult students (Woolfolk
& Spero, 2005). Teacher self-efficacy was one of the few teacher characteristics related to
student achievement (Ashton & Webb 1986; Ross 1992; Woolfolk, Hoy, Davis, & Pape, 2006).
According to Woolfolk Hoy, Hoy and Kurz (2008), when a teacher’s self-efficacy was high and
they believed they were able to affect student learning, they set higher expectations, exerted
greater effort, and continued through challenging times. Hence, teacher self-efficacy should be
nurtured throughout the preservice experience and through continual professional development
to provide the opportunities that teachers need to excel in instructional practices and strategies.
Through strong teacher modeling, students can begin to build or repair a positive and confident
relationship to math.
In recognizing the importance of teacher efficacy, additional research has been conducted
to determine how student achievement relates to teacher efficacy. Among these studies, Moore
and Esselman (1994) theorized that personal and teaching efficacy are affected by historical
student achievement and workplace context. Their research with 1500 elementary school
teachers revealed that teachers who worked at schools with historically poor achievement tended
to have lower levels of efficacy. Their findings revealed that schools with positive school
climates, including a focus on instruction and teacher centered decision making, had teachers
with an overall higher sense of efficacy (Moore & Esselman, 1994).
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 30
Angle and Moseley (2009) compared the teacher efficacy beliefs of secondary Biology I
teachers with students whose mean scores on state-wide assessments exceeded proficiency to the
efficacy beliefs of those whose students’ mean scores fell below the proficient level. A sample of
196 teachers responded to a Teacher Attribute Questionnaire regarding personal and academic
background information. End of Instruction (EOI) Biology I scores were obtained from state
department of education and were examined. Results indicated that regardless of the
achievement levels of the students, teachers held similar convictions about their abilities to
effectively teach science. Teachers with higher levels of education and years of teaching
exhibited higher levels of teacher efficacy. Additionally, teachers who believed that their
students were well prepared to take the EOI, had significantly higher mean scores. Researchers
indicated that such results suggest that scores were related to the expectations that a teacher
holds for his or her students regardless of home, available resources or student motivation.
Mathematical Teaching Self-Efficacy
According to J. K. Roberts et al. (2001), teacher self-efficacy is often a subject-matter-
specific construct. While a teacher may feel confident about his or her ability to impact student
achievement in relation to one subject, this ability does not translate to all subjects. Bitto and
Butler (2010) asserted that while it is readily accepted that subject matter knowledge impacts
teacher effectiveness, “math teacher self-efficacy is an indicator of math teacher effectiveness
and therefore a variable to strengthen and develop effective math teachers” (p. 40). Therefore,
further examination of teachers’ beliefs about their ability to teach math is necessary to improve
math instruction.
Mathematical teaching self-efficacy relates to an individual teacher’s personal teaching
efficacy which is a teacher’s beliefs that they are adequately trained to teach math or that they
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 31
have enough experience to develop strategies for overcoming roadblocks to student learning in
math (Ashton, Olejnik, Crocker, & McAuliffe, 1982). Mathematical teaching self-efficacy is
more specific than a belief about what teachers in general can accomplish because it is related to
a specified content area (Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy, & Hoy, 1998). Thus the importance
of the research conducted about self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977, 1997; Kahle, 2008; Long, 2003),
specifically the significance in identifying mathematical teaching self-efficacy as a gauge for
teachers’ confidence in their instructional practices in order to help educators better understand
how to increase student learning and achievement (Bandura, 1997). In giving teachers tools to
examine their own biases or hindrances, they will be able to create experiences for growth and
overcoming their anxiety challenges.
According to Kahle (2008), teachers’ mathematical teaching self-efficacy was related to
teacher knowledge, teacher preparation, student achievement and personal efficacy, the idea of
which is in direct alignment with Bandura’s (1986) social cognitive learning theory. In studies
related to general teacher self-efficacy, efficacious behaviors in teachers resulted in better
discipline, effective classroom management, motivation among students, and increased student
achievement (Pintrich & Schunk, 2002; Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990). According to Kahle, the same
outcomes occurred when applied to mathematical teaching self-efficacy, thus making the study
of mathematical teaching efficacy and the corresponding results imperative to the development
of more successful preservice teacher education programs and professional development
opportunities for teachers of math.
Mathematics Teacher Preparation
The National Mathematics Advisory Panel (2008) and the National Council on Teacher
Quality (Greenberg & Walsh, 2008) reported that math teacher quality is a significant factor in
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 32
relation to student achievement. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (2002) legislation required
that all teachers be deemed highly qualified in each subject that he or she teaches; however,
preparation programs and certification requirements differ from state to state. According to the
Hawaii Department of Education Highly Qualified Teacher Guidelines (2013), certified
elementary teachers responsible for instruction in self-contained or multiple-subject classrooms,
including math instruction, do not have any specific requirements for college-level math
coursework to be considered highly qualified.
Certification programs in Hawaii require elementary school teachers to complete a
bachelor’s degree in any subject matter and pass a multiple-subject-matter assessment such as
the Praxis II, which assesses teachers’ knowledge of multiple K–6 topics, with minimal
proficiency. Passing these examinations does not reflect the in-depth content knowledge required
to sufficiently teach math. The National Mathematics Advisory Panel (2008) suggested that
teachers should know and understand the content they are responsible for teaching in detail and
from a more advanced perspective than is expected for student mastery. Additionally, because
prospective teachers of elementary students may have obtained a bachelor’s degree in any
subject, little is known regarding their math preparation. Further exploration is needed to gather
information regarding the content preparation of current elementary math teachers.
Summary of the Literature
Through reviewing the math research, it seems apparent that the various theories,
behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, efficacies, and instructional beliefs of elementary school teachers
affect student learning throughout the years (Gibson & Dembo, 1984; Mujis & Reynolds, 2002).
The relationships between mathematical anxiety and mathematical teaching self-efficacy appear
to be relevant as educators look to improve mathematical teaching practices. Yet, the endless
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 33
cycle of students’ sense of anxiety, self-efficacy, and learning in a negative way needs to be
addressed further. The intent of this review of literature was to establish a foundation for
research in identifying the relationships between mathematical anxiety and mathematical
teaching self-efficacy of elementary school teachers. Studies pertaining to elementary math and
the relationship between math anxiety and teacher self-efficacy have focused primarily upon pre-
service teachers (Bursal & Paznokas, 2006; Gresham, 2009). There is a significant gap in the
literature pertaining to self-efficacy as a construct for in-service teachers of math which is the
focus of this dissertation.
Purpose of the Study and Research Questions
The purpose of this study was to determine if a relationship exists between math anxiety
and math teaching self-efficacy and whether any characteristics of in-service teachers can be
predictors of both. The following specific questions and hypotheses were addressed in this study:
Research Question 1:
Is there a relationship between math anxiety and math teaching self-efficacy in
elementary school teachers?
Hypothesis 1: There is a positive relationship between the MAF and MTSEF in
elementary school math teachers.
Research Question 2:
To what extent can variance in elementary teachers' self-reported math anxiety and math
teaching self-efficacy be explained by demographic characteristics including gender,
current status teaching math, grade level taught, years of teaching experience,
certification status, and background in math?
Hypothesis 2a: Gender of the participants will predict the MAF and MTSEF.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 34
Hypothesis 2b: Current grade level of participants will predict the MAF and MTSEF.
Hypothesis 2c: Years of teaching will predict the MAF and MTSEF
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 35
CHAPTER THREE
METHODOLOGY
This study investigated the relationship between math anxiety and math teaching self-
efficacy in elementary school teachers. This chapter summarizes the methods and procedures
used to address the research questions in the study. Additionally, an overview of the research
questions, sample and population, instrumentation and data collection and analysis procedures
will be discussed. Such an examination may be able to result in research based implications for
practice and policy in teacher education both at the preservice and in-service levels. First,
relevant demographic characteristics of study participants will be discussed. Second, the
instruments used to collect and analyze the data will be examined. Finally, procedures for
participant selection and data collection will be explained.
Sample and Population
All participants in the sample were practicing elementary school teachers in grades K-6.
The survey was given to entire faculties regardless of if the individuals teach math. A sample
size of 103 elementary school teachers from the Mahalo complex area’s 9 elementary schools
were used for the study. Participating schools represented mostly rural geographic locations
including two of the less populated Hawaiian Islands and rural complexes on a more populated
island. As shown in Table 1, female participants comprised 68.9% (n = 71) of the sample, while
male participants comprised 31.1% (n = 32) of the sample. The majority of participants 93.2% (n
= 96) are elementary certified and 91.3% (n = 94) currently teach math. The average years of
teaching experience of the participants was 10.21 years with 66.0% (n = 68) of participants
teaching 10 or fewer years. Also shown in Table 1 is the distribution of grade levels of teachers
represented and highest math course completed in high school.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 36
Table 1
Frequency Distribution of Teacher Participants (N = 103)
N Percentage
Gender
Male 32 31.1
Female 71 68.9
Certification Status
Yes 96 93.2
No 7 6.8
Current Math Teacher
Yes 94 91.3
No 9 8.7
Math Teaching Grade Level
Kindergarten 10 9.7
1
st
Grade 15 14.6
2
nd
Grade 17 16.5
3
rd
Grade 16 15.5
4
th
Grade 9 8.7
5
th
Grade 8 7.8
6
th
Grade 9 8.7
Multiple Grades 13 12.6
N/A 6 5.8
Years of Teaching
0-10 68 66.0
11-20 24 23.3
21-30 8 7.8
31-40 3 2.9
Highest Math Course Completed in
High School
Algebra 10 9.7
Geometry 9 8.7
Algebra 2 39 37.9
Trigonometry/Pre-Calculus 30 29.1
Calculus 1 10 9.7
Calculus 2 5 4.9
Self-Reported Math Anxiety
Yes 45 43.7
No 58 56.3
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 37
Instrumentation
According to Creswell (2014), quantitative research is “an approach for testing objective
theories by examining the relationship among variables.” (p. 4). For quantitative research, a
survey is a useful data collection tool. According to Fink (2013), surveys are data collection
techniques that help the researcher obtain information about targeted participants. In order to
effectively gather data, the researcher needs to focus on the sample and design of the survey
(Fink, 2013). Fink (2013) states, “They (surveys) are used because they get information directly
from people.” (p. 1).
The instrument used in this study was a survey with items measuring different constructs
using quantitative methods for data analysis. The two constructs are the Mathematics Attitude
Factor (MAF) and the Mathematics Teaching Self-Efficacy Factor (MTSEF).
McAnallen Anxiety in Mathematics Teaching Survey (MAMTS)
The survey that was deployed in this study was adapted from the McAnallen Anxiety in
Mathematics Teaching Survey (MAMTS) (McAnallen, 2009) (see APPENDIX to view original
survey). The MAMTS was originally administered to a sample of 691 teachers from eight states
representing geographically diverse areas of the United States in rural, urban, and suburban
communities. Responses were used to investigate math anxiety in elementary teachers as well as
several demographic questions.
The development of the MAMTS instrument initially had 51 items that could be used to
determine the four factors: Personal math self-efficacy, Personal math anxiety, Math teaching
self-efficacy, and Math teaching anxiety. A content validation scale for the pilot survey was
developed and given to 12 professionals in the field to determine the validity of the 51 items. The
initial pool of 51 items was later reduced to 40 items. A revised pilot survey including these 40
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 38
items in a 5-point Likert format was distributed to approximately 900 teachers who attended
educational conferences at University of Connecticut and Boise State University as part of a pilot
survey, and 335 of the pilot surveys were returned (McAnallen, 2009).
Several statistical tests were performed on the survey to ensure the instrument was a
sound tool to deploy. McAnallen (2009) ran internal consistency reliability tests using
Cronbach’s Alpha. Internal consistency reliability refers to the extent to which items on a
particular test or survey represent one and only one construct or area of interest (Salkind, 2014).
Analysis using Cronbach’s Alpha scores yielded the following: factor number one (15 items) had
a Cronbach's Alpha of .923, and factor number two had a Cronbach's Alpha (14 items) of .952
(McAnallen, 2009). Cronbach’s Alpha coefficients are on a scale from 0 to 1. Ideally, the
coefficient of a scale should be above .7 (Pallant, 2013). McAnallen’s final instrument contained
29 items: 15 items related to the Professional Mathematics Anxiety (the renamed teaching self-
efficacy and anxiety factor) and 14 items related to Personal Mathematics Anxiety (the renamed
personal math self-efficacy and anxiety factor) (McAnallen, 2009).
Mathematics Attitude Factor (MAF)
The first construct being tested in the current study was the Mathematics Attitude Factor
(MAF), which measures the level of a teacher’s self-reported personal attitude towards math.
The MAF is based off of the Personal Mathematics Anxiety construct adapted from the MAMTS
study. The MAF included items such as “Having to work with fractions causes me discomfort”
and “I am comfortable working on a problem that involves algebra”. Overall there were 12 items
measured on a Likert scale of 1 to 5, where 1 represents strongly disagree and 5 represents
strongly agree. Reliability analysis using Cronbach’s Alpha values yielded a score of .884 for the
MAF (12 items).
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 39
Mathematics Teaching Self-Efficacy Factor (MTSEF)
The second construct investigated in the current study was the Mathematics Teaching
Self-Efficacy Factor (MTSEF), which included items that reflect the participants’ confidence
level in teaching math. This construct was adapted and renamed from the MAMTS study. Items
such as “I have trouble finding alternative methods for teaching a mathematical concept when a
student is confused” and “I feel confident using sources other than the mathematics textbook
when I teach” were included in the survey. Overall there were 15 items measured on a Likert
scale of 1 to 5, where 1 represents strongly disagree and 5 represents strongly agree. The
MTSEF had a Cronbach’s Alpha value of .963.
Both factors fall in the acceptable range of Cronbach’s Alpha coefficients of above .7.
The remaining 12 items on the survey were used to gather demographic data. The final
instrument delivered to the Mahalo complex area included 39 items. Items 2, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 15,
16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 24 were reversed to run the reliability analysis.
Procedure
The researcher chose to use a convenience sample for the purpose of this study. Creswell
(2014) states that a convenience sample is a nonprobability sample in which the respondents
were chosen based on convenience and availability. The sample was derived from the
researcher’s access to professional contacts in the Hawaiʻi Department of Education (DOE) and
a working relationship with the CAS of the Mahalo complex area. The researcher contacted the
Mahalo CAS and worked with him to ensure participation of the 9 elementary schools in the
complex area. The researcher then presented his study at a complex area principal meeting to
explain the importance of the study therefore gaining access to their respective faculties. Once
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 40
access to the elementary school faculties was granted, the researcher deployed the survey and
began collecting data.
A common concern in survey research is low response rates from participants (Dillman,
2000). However, in the current study, surveys were disseminated to participants at faculty and
professional meetings. The researcher deployed the survey via online methods using Qualtrics.
According to Fink (2013), two advantages of delivering the survey online are that data can be
easily downloaded to a spreadsheet, data analysis package, or database; and reminders to
complete the survey to many participants are easily sent via e-mail. Disadvantages include
unreliable internet access of participants, different platforms may change the appearance of the
given survey, and most importantly, the researcher must have reliable e-mail addresses for the
participants. Surveys were delivered online through a link given to participating principals.
Those principals that were willing to administer the survey at one of their faculty meetings were
allowed to do so with specific written directions. The researcher also provided a link of the
survey to all administrators to disseminate to any faculty members who happened to miss the
opportunity to complete the survey with the rest of their faculty.
Data Analysis
Data from the survey was entered into a SPSS data file and checked for accuracy. All
variables were analyzed using descriptive statistics including the measures of central tendency
(mean, median, and mode), range, standard deviation, and variance. Descriptive statistics have a
number of uses including describing the characteristics of the sample population, to check the
variables for any violations of the assumptions underlying the statistical techniques that will be
used to address the research questions, and to address specific research questions (Pallant, 2013).
The descriptive statistics for each of the variables were used to run other statistical tests to
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 41
address the two research questions which include a correlation analysis and a multiple linear
regression. Open-ended responses were analyzed for emerging themes.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 42
CHAPTER FOUR
RESULTS
The following chapter provides an overview of the results of the study including an
analysis of the two research questions and of the open-ended responses provided by the
participants. Preliminary results show that 43.7% of the participants (n = 45) indicate they
experience some form of math anxiety. An open-ended question was asked of these participants
and then analyzed for emerging themes.
Analyses of Research Questions
Research Question 1: Is there a relationship between math anxiety (MAF) and math teaching
self-efficacy (MTSEF) in elementary school teachers?
Hypothesis 1: There is a positive relationship between the MAF and MTSEF in
elementary school math teachers.
In order to answer research question one, a correlation model was used to
determine the relationship between the MAF and the MTSEF. Correlation analysis is used to
describe the strength and direction of the linear relationship between the two variables. To
determine whether a relationship exists between the dependent variables, the MAF and the
MTSEF, a bivariate correlation was conducted using the mean summative scale scores for each
factor. The mean scores for the two factors, MAF and MTSEF were correlated, finding a
relationship in the sample of participants between personal math attitudes and teaching self-
efficacy. The means and standard deviations for the variables are reported in Table 4.1, and the
MAF and MTSEF subscale mean scores were found to be positively correlated (r = .794, n= 103,
p < .01). A correlation coefficient of .794 represents a strong relationship between the two
factors. This result confirms hypothesis 1, which stated there is a positive correlation between the
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 43
MAF and the MTSEF in elementary school math teachers. As participants’ personal attitude
towards math increases, so does their self-efficacy in teaching math. In terms of the level of a
participant’s math anxiety, the lower their personal attitude toward math (MAF) means a higher
level of math anxiety. Therefore, the lower a participant’s math anxiety level means a higher
sense of math teaching self-efficacy.
Table 2
Means and Standard Deviations for the MAF and MTSEF
Factors n Mean Standard Deviation
MAF 103 3.14 0.77
MTSEF 103 3.45 0.90
Research Question 2: To what extent can variance in elementary teachers' self-reported
mathematics anxiety and mathematics teaching self-efficacy be explained by demographic
characteristics including gender, certification status, current status teaching math, grade level
taught, years of teaching experience, and background in mathematics?
Hypothesis 2a: Gender of the participants will predict the MAF and MTSEF.
Hypothesis 2b: Current grade level of participants will predict the MAF and MTSEF.
Hypothesis 2c: Years of teaching will predict the MAF and MTSEF
Research question two was addressed by using a multiple linear regression model to
identify the significance between the different predictor variables (gender, certification status,
grade level taught, years of teaching experience, background in math) that may contribute to
math anxiety and math teaching self-efficacy. A multiple linear regression model is an extension
of correlation and is used to explore the predictive ability of a set of independent variables on a
continuous dependent variable (Pallant, 2013). The result is predicting the outcome from two
independent variables rather than just one.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 44
Mathematical Attitudes Factor (MAF)
The first multiple linear regression was calculated to predict the MAF based on the six
independent variables. Preliminary analyses were performed to ensure there was no violation of
the assumption of normality, linearity and multicollinearity. A significant regression equation
was found (F(6, 96) = 7.883, p < .000), with an R² of .330. The model was significant (p = .002)
with 33% of the variability explained. The variables Current Grade Level, High School Math
Taken, and Years of Teaching were found to be significant predictors of the MAF. Using the
beta coefficients of the IVs we can compare the relative importance of the variable compared to
the others. With a beta value of .35, Current Grade Level appears to be the strongest predictor of
the MAF, then High School Math Taken (β = .32) and Years of Teaching (β = .21). Results of
the six IVs’ predictive value are shown in Table 3 below.
Table 3
Multiple Regression Predicting Mathematics Attitudes Factor (N = 103)
sig R2 β
Overall model .002 .33
1. Gender .49 .06
2. Certification Status .69 .04
3. Current Math Teacher .64 -.05
4. Years of Teaching .02 .21
5. Current Grade Level .001 .35
6. High School Math Taken .001 .32
Math Teaching Self-Efficacy Factor (MTSEF)
The second multiple linear regression was calculated to predict the MTSEF based on the
six independent variables. Preliminary analyses were performed to ensure there was no violation
of the assumption of normality, linearity and multicollinearity. A significant regression
equation was found (F(6, 96) = 6.479, p < .000), with an R² of .288. The overall regression
model used was significant (p = .003) with 29% of the variance being explained. The Years of
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 45
Teaching and Current Grade Level variables were found to be significant predictors of teaching
self-efficacy (p = .001). Current Grade Level (β = .36) was found to be the strongest predictor for
the MTSEF and then Years of Teaching (β = .33). Results of the six IVs predictive value are
shown in Table 4 below.
Table 4
Multiple Regression Predicting Mathematics Teaching Self-Efficacy Factor (N = 103)
sig R2 β
Overall model .003 .29
1. Gender .22 .03
2. Certification Status .80 .03
3. Current Math Teacher .14 -.15
4. Years of Teaching .001 .33
5. Current Grade Level .001 .36
6. High School Math Taken .38 .08
The variable Current Grade Level was shown to be a significant predictor of both the
MAF and the MTSEF confirming hypothesis 2b. Moreover, it was found to be the strongest
predictor with the highest beta coefficient for both constructs. Additionally, the variable Years
of Teaching was shown to be a predictor of both the MAF and the MTSEF as well confirming
hypothesis 2c. Lastly, High School Math Taken was shown to have a predictive quality on the
MAF. All other variables were shown to not have a significant predictive value on the two
constructs. Hypotheses 2a was disproved by Gender not being a significant predictor of the MAF
and MTSEF in the sample population. Implications for these results will be discussed in depth in
the following chapter.
Analysis of Open-Ended Responses
Participants who answered yes (43.7%, n = 45) to having math anxiety were prompted to
describe the circumstances that led to their first experiences with math anxiety. An analysis was
done to see if any main themes emerged from the responses. Failure resulting in shame was one
major theme and content and curriculum struggles was another. The responses from the
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 46
participants varied but overall they reflected bad experiences with math as students and as
teachers.
A bad experience with a teacher was specifically mentioned in many survey responses.
One teacher stated, “My 2nd grade teacher was very strict and used to punish me for incorrect
answers. Ever since then I hated math.” Another said, “I had a bad experience in 4th grade. I
was asked to do a question on the board and got it wrong. The teacher then proceeded to
embarrass me in front of the whole class. I hated math ever since.” Other responses cited some
form of failure and shame from peers. “I was teased in kindergarten for being too stupid to learn
how to count.” Regardless of the specifics of the incidents described by the participants, some
form of failure happened that led to the child being shamed by a teacher or by their fellow
students.
Content and curriculum struggles both as a student and as a teacher arose as the other
major theme. These responses describe struggles with math content as a student learning and as
a teacher instructing. For example, a participant wrote, “I never felt like I was a strong math
student in elementary school. Homework and classwork were difficult for me.” While another
stated, “Having to teach math according to the standards for that grade-level in a different way
from how I was taught. Also not having a math curriculum or the confidence to teach specific
concepts. I get anxiety just thinking of the common core.” All the responses that fall within this
theme mention struggling with particular concepts while they were students and difficulties in
teaching particular topics to students.
Looking at the open-ended responses gives insight to the types of experiences that lead to
math anxiety and confirms with anecdotal evidence the research regarding how math anxiety
manifests in individuals. By knowing some of the triggers of math anxiety, those in education
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 47
can tailor learning experiences that can potentially eliminate or lessen negative experiences
students and teachers have with math.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 48
CHAPTER FIVE
FINDINGS AND IMPLICATIONS
Math is at the forefront of many discussions involving education, particularly as STEM
and the Common Core State Standards become an ever growing element in curriculum and
student preparedness for college and careers. Thus, as students show slow or no growth in
standardized math assessments, and as teachers display little confidence in their own math
abilities, there is a severe need to study the reasons for math failure in order to address those
causes to help both teachers and students achieve at math. As such, this study was conducted to
test the hypothesis that a relationship exists between math anxiety and math teaching self-
efficacy in elementary math teachers. Furthermore, the study considered to what degree sub
categories, such as years of teaching or gender, impact the relationship between math anxiety and
math teaching self-efficacy in elementary math teachers. The guiding purpose of the study is to
use findings to direct teacher policy and practice, as well as teacher education at preservice and
in-service levels. All students are at an extreme disadvantage if teachers are not highly capable
within their content areas.
In order to focus the study, there were two guiding questions to be addressed:
1. Is there a relationship between math anxiety and math teaching self-efficacy in
elementary school teachers?
2. To what extent can variance in elementary teachers' self-reported math anxiety and
math teaching self-efficacy be explained by demographic characteristics including
gender, current status teaching math, grade level taught, years of teaching experience,
certification status, and background in math?
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 49
Using quantitative methods, a survey was deployed to all nine K-6 Hawai’i elementary
schools in a single complex area with 103 teacher respondents. The findings discussed will
provide observations of the direct relationship between math anxiety and math teaching self-
efficacy in elementary school teachers, as well as the impact of demographic characteristics on
math teaching self-efficacy. Looking at the open-ended responses, causes of math anxiety will
be identified as well as themes for education policy makers to use to improve teacher
professional development and teacher education programs.
Summary of Findings
Upon compiling the survey results from 103 K-6 teacher respondents, the findings show
that hypothesis 1: There is a positive relationship between the MAF and MTSEF in elementary
school math teachers, is both correct and statistically strong. Thus, the question is inherently
sound, and the results valid to be used in analysis and utilized in policy making. Furthermore, the
second research question was answered in that the sub-factors were correlated to math attitude
and math teaching self-efficacy. Hence, as there is no one factor that impacts math teaching self-
efficacy, there are numerous occasions to improve math anxiety in elementary school teachers,
especially when addressing the three findings that arise from the analysis of the research
questions: there is a strong positive relationship between math anxiety and math teaching self-
efficacy; the factors influencing math attitude (personal) are grade level taught, highest level of
math studied and years of teaching; predictors of teaching self-efficacy were grade level taught
and years of teaching. Findings from the open-ended responses indicate two major themes:
failure resulting in being shamed; and content and curriculum struggles.
The first finding which supported hypothesis 1 to be true validates that as an individual
has a more positive connection to math, their teaching self-efficacy also increases positively.
Conversely, less of a positive relationship with math equates to a decreased teaching self-
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 50
efficacy. This result supports the study conducted by Swars, Daane, and Giesen (2006), as well
as a study conducted by Bursal and Paznokas (2006), in which preservice teachers with high
levels of math anxiety have demonstrated low teacher efficacy about teaching elementary math.
Levine (1996) also found a disproportionately large percentage of elementary teachers have been
reported to have high levels of math anxiety, similar to the survey respondents in this study in
which the correlation coefficient of .794 represents a strong relationship between math anxiety
and math teaching self-efficacy.
The second finding identifies the variables that greatly influence math attitude as specific
to grade level, the highest level of math completed and years of teaching by the individual
teacher. Certified elementary teachers in Hawai’i responsible for instruction in self-contained or
multiple-subject classrooms, including math instruction, but do not have any specific
requirements for college-level math coursework to be considered highly qualified. Thus, the
survey results from the K-6 elementary school teacher respondents, support the hypothesis of
Buhlman and Young (1982) that “in general, the kind of person who is drawn to elementary
teaching is not necessarily the kind who enjoys math…” (p. 55). As elementary preservice
teachers identify math as their worst subject, researchers found that these students felt they had
little or no need for a higher level of mathematical skills beyond numerical computation. Hence,
as elementary teachers understand basic math skills, secondary teachers, requiring more math
knowledge, have a deeper understanding of the subject. Therefore, secondary teachers have a
stronger positive connection to math, lessening their math anxiety.
The third finding shows that there is a relationship between self-efficacy and both grade
level taught and years of teaching experience of the individual. The survey results are
comparable to the study conducted by Angle and Moseley (2009), which found that teachers
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 51
with higher levels of education and years of teaching exhibited higher levels of teacher efficacy.
Thus, as individuals spend more years in the profession, their confidence in their own teaching
ability grows, directly influencing their teaching self-efficacy. Furthermore, as teachers in higher
grade levels require more content knowledge to be placed in teaching positions, they have a
stronger foundation of content areas, encouraging a higher self-efficacy as well.
Initially, some research indicated that gender played a role on influencing math anxiety
and math teaching self-efficacy but was found not to be significant in this study. In fact, female
participants showed higher MAF and MTSEF scores as a whole than their male counterparts.
This could be explained by several reasons most optimistic of them being that gender roles and
stereotypes pertaining to math are fading away with time. With the growing number of females
in STEM fields, the idea that boys are better in math compared to girls cannot be supported with
sound research and anecdotal evidence.
The themes that emerged from the open-ended responses provide understanding and
awareness of the causes of math anxiety in students and in teachers. Experiencing some sort of
failure as a student in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but add the experience of being
shamed as a result of your failure can be detrimental to a student’s confidence. Shame caused
directly by a teacher, an authority figure and potential role model, is documented as a cause for
some to hate math. Peers also play a role in the development of any child and being shamed by
them can have negative consequences as well. The other theme demonstrated the struggles some
have with math as a content area whether they are trying to learn or teach. Students who struggle
with math often develop anxiety associated with the subject. Teachers who struggle with math
concepts tend to stick with traditional methods of instruction often falling back to how they were
taught as students instead of adapting and implementing best practices.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 52
Implications
This study was conducted to address the significant gap in the literature pertaining to self-
efficacy as a construct for in-service teachers of math. The results have two implications for
policy and practice. In regards to policy, the answers from the respondents show that
restructuring teacher education programs to better support and prepare preservice teachers may
help improve math anxiety and math self-efficacy in elementary teachers. In regards to practice,
the answers from the respondents show that better plans for improving math instruction in K-6
teachers are necessary to improve math anxiety and math self-efficacy in elementary teachers.
The results of the survey show that preservice elementary teachers need more math
instruction preparation to increase math self-efficacy. Evidence from the survey shows the
relationship between math self-efficacy and grade level as well as the highest level of math
completed by the individual teacher. Therefore, seeing as secondary teachers are required, in the
Hawai’i public education system, to pass a math content area Praxis II test, elementary teachers
should be required to provide evidence of their math knowledge as well in order to ensure a
confidence in their math abilities. Currently, elementary teacher certification requires only 1
math methods course for elementary math; however, if the requirement is increased to 4-5 math
methods courses, preservice teachers will be exposed to more opportunities for deepening their
understanding of math skills, as well as learning various strategies for math instruction.
Establishing math confidence in elementary teachers will help schools be successful, especially
seeing as efficacious behaviors in teachers results in better discipline, effective classroom
management, motivation among students, and increased student achievement (Pintrich &
Schunk, 2002; Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990).
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 53
While preservice teachers can be better prepared through a change in their required
courses, in-service teachers need to be supported throughout their teaching careers in order to
maintain and develop their math teaching self-efficacy. While teachers who have been in the
profession for many years responded with a stronger sense of math confidence, they also
reiterated the need to be provided with professional experiences to grow as math teachers.
Through developing mentor teacher partnerships at the local level, experienced and beginning
teachers can work together to assess curriculum and best practices that can guide their instruction
to help more students achieve in math. Studies conducted by Ellsworth and Buss (2000), Silva
and Roddick (2001) and Trujillo and Hadfield (1999) examined the source of math anxiety in
preservice teachers, finding that most students indicated the influential role of the teacher in the
development of mathematical understanding. This was supported by the open-ended responses
by some participants as well indicating that their elementary school teacher was the cause of
their anxiety. All math teachers, from primary to secondary, need to have low math anxiety in
order to ensure their students have a strong positive connection to math. Thus, professional
development is important, particularly for primary educators, in order to gain content area
confidence and ways to foster the love of math in their students. In order to prevent teachers with
math anxiety skimming over areas in the math curriculum that they themselves struggle with,
leading to gaps in student learning (Gresham, 2004), schools need to help teachers build
professional learning communities, schedule time for them to focus on math instructional
practices, and provide them with math department and cross grade level meeting times to discuss
math data analysis and curriculum implementation. Targeted professional development on
implementation of new standards and curriculum is vital to proper instruction in the classroom.
As mentioned in participant responses, the common core is a source for anxiety and needs to be
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 54
addressed in teacher interventions to help the implementation and delivery of curriculum and any
new standards that come over time.
Recommendations
Seeing as there is a significant gap in the literature pertaining to self-efficacy as a
construct for in-service teachers of math, this study collected survey responses from 103 K-6
elementary school teachers from 9 schools within the Hawai’i Department of Education. The
respondents’ answers were compiled and analyzed to show that there is a clear relationship
between a participant’s math anxiety level and the individual’s sense of math teaching self-
efficacy. The implications of the results influence both policy and practice in the field of math
education. There are three recommendations to consider in light of the survey results: the
relationship between student achievement and math self-efficacy of the teacher, and two
longitudinal studies one study of implications implementation and one study of intervention and
the relationship to math self-efficacy.
The first recommendation is to conduct a study to determine if there is a relationship
between student achievement and math self-efficacy of the teacher. The National Mathematics
Advisory Panel (2008) and the National Council on Teacher Quality (Greenberg & Walsh, 2008)
reported that math teacher quality is a significant factor in relation to student achievement. With
the emphasis on math in education today, the cycle of math anxiety is passed down to the next
generation through math anxious teachers who often exhibit the characteristics and behaviors in
their instructional practices that caused their own math anxiety (Alsup, 2003; Beilock et al.,
2010; Brady & Bowd, 2005; Burns, 1998). Through conducting a quantitative study of student
achievement as well as teacher math self-efficacy, a possible positive relationship can be found
between increased student achievement with increased teacher math self-efficacy. According to
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 55
Kahle (2008), teachers’ mathematical teaching self-efficacy was related to teacher knowledge,
teacher preparation, student achievement and personal efficacy. As such, an evidenced positive
relationship between teacher self-efficacy and student math achievement can support the need to
have qualified and confident math teachers in both the secondary and elementary levels, thus
influencing a required change in both policy and practice at all levels within the education
system.
The second and third recommendations suggest conducting two longitudinal surveys. The
first longitudinal study seeks to determine if there is a relationship between what/how policy and
practice implications were implemented over a long period of time and the impact of the
implementation on teacher math self-efficacy. If a positive relationship is found between the two
factors, administrators can use the results to provide effective early intervention through teacher
support for new teachers in order to increase self-efficacy early in a teacher’s career. The results
of a positive relationship can also justify the importance of teacher supports, such as a strong
mentoring program, and the funding for such programs. Providing in-service teachers with the
support they need to increase their self-efficacy will result in better discipline, effective
classroom management, motivation among students, and increased student achievement (Pintrich
& Schunk, 2002; Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990). Furthermore, a second longitudinal study can utilize a
control group to compare the differing development of math teacher self-efficacy with and
without intervention and support for in-service teachers. If a relationship can be evidenced
between providing support for in-service teachers and their increased self-efficacy, then student
achievement can also increase, as teacher self-efficacy was one of the few teacher characteristics
related to student achievement (Ashton & Webb 1986; Ross 1992; Woolfolk, Hoy, Davis, &
Pape, 2006). Teachers with high teacher efficacy tended to believe in themselves and work
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 56
consciously and diligently to help all students learn, even the difficult students (Woolfolk &
Spero, 2005). Through fostering successful teachers, student success can also be sustained.
Conclusion
In a world of standardized tests and shrinking budget, research based evidence is
necessary to justify expenses on programs and policies that support teacher improvement in
order to ensure student achievement. Improving an individual’s craft requires outside
experiences, many of which are expensive to attend or purchase. Through surveys that look to
teacher responses, studies can help illustrate why professional development is necessary and how
it can create a confident teacher. Furthermore, studies and help to explain why confident teachers
are important for student achievement and development.
Consequently, without the quantitative and qualitative evidence from in-service teachers,
there is no way to determine what best practices are effective and policies are having a positive
impact on teachers and students. As teachers are in the classroom everyday implementing
curriculum and being evaluated on student achievement, creating and maintaining confident
teachers is imperative to the success of schools everywhere. Specifically, confident teachers of
math are in high demand so that school age children can be educated with a positive connection
to the content area. Teachers who are not confident in their math instruction avoid the content
area and pass on their math anxiety to their students. Schmidt and Buchmann (1983) suggested
that teachers who do not enjoy math spend 50 percent less time teaching this subject than
teachers who feel comfortable with this subject area. Reducing the amount of instructional time
needed for students to grasp and master concepts, especially in elementary school can be
detrimental to all students, not just those that have math anxiety (Schmidt & Buchmann, 1983).
The cycle of math anxiety must be broken to ensure strong foundations in math for all students.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 57
At a local level, this and future studies, with specific sample groups, can use the findings
to recognize the need to improve the district’s strategy for the math department, how they spend
their money, and what programs they can initiate to support new teachers or teachers needing to
build self-efficacy in math. In recognizing and defining areas of growth, schools can develop
strategic plans to benefit their teachers, students, curriculum, and test scores. Building stronger
math departments is of utmost importance as technology grows and as the global job market
competition increases. Students should be receiving the highest quality education so that they can
be productive members of the world. Similarly, teachers should be receiving the highest quality
supports and professional development so they may guide their students into complex thinkers.
Thus, there is much to gain from further studies of pre-service and in-service elementary
math teachers. Math anxious teachers often exhibit the characteristics and behaviors in their
instructional practices that caused their own math anxiety, and the cycle of math anxiety is
passed down to the next generation (Alsup, 2003; Beilock et al., 2010; Brady & Bowd, 2005;
Burns, 1998). Helping elementary teachers to foster their own positive connection and attitude
toward math is imperative for future math success of students. Improving math instruction in
elementary school is the foundation for student relationships with math. Establishing studies to
garner teacher experiences will increase the chances of creating practices and policies that will
be more beneficial to all. If we fail to take teachers into account, then we fail to help students
achieve.
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 58
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EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 72
Appendix A
Final Math Anxiety Qualtrics Survey with Informed Consent
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 73
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 74
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 75
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 76
Appendix B
MAMTS Survey
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 77
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 78
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 79
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 80
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 81
Appendix C
Final IRB Approval
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 82
EXAMINING MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 83
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