Mathematics experience: Contributing factors to the math anxiety and avoidance behaviors of female elementary school pre-service teachers
Allen, David S
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Math anxiety is prevalent among citizens of our country, yet nowhere is it more prominent than in America's classrooms. Elementary school teachers hesitate to teach difficult, abstract concepts while students straggle to make sense of the manipulation of numbers and symbols. These struggles perpetuate the negative attitudes towards mathematics and promote math anxiety and avoidance behaviors. The purpose of this study was to identify factors that contribute to the development of math anxiety in female elementary school pre-service teachers and assess the relationship between math anxiety and math avoidance behaviors. Initial examination of 43 mathematics autobiographies identified mathematical experiences in ten separate categories. Three categories, students' experiences with math teachers, math content, and math pedagogical practices, were used to develop experience scales for these constructs. A fourth scale was developed to measure experiences with math avoidance behaviors. Math anxiety was measured using the Revised Math Anxiety Scale. A correlation matrix compared the participants' scores on the four experience scales with math anxiety. A regression analysis was conducted to determine if participants' experience with math content, math teachers, or pedagogical practices in the math classroom could be identified as predictors of math anxiety. Finally, additional regression analyses were conducted to identify math anxiety and experiences with math teachers, math content, and pedagogical practices in math classrooms as predictors for math avoidance behaviors. Math specialization participants and those participants specializing in other areas were analyzed separately. Results indicated a strong correlation between math anxiety and participants' mathematical content experiences for both groups. Moderate correlations w ere found for math anxiety and participants' experiences with math teachers for both groups. Math specialization participants' math anxiety was not significantly correlated with pedagogical experiences in the mathematics classroom. Non-math specialization participants' math anxiety levels were slightly correlated with pedagogical experiences in the math classroom. The results of the regression analysis identified experiences with mathematical content as a significant predictor of math anxiety for both math specialization participants and those who selected a specialization other than mathematics. Additional regression analysis identified math anxiety and participants' experiences with math content as significant predictors of math avoidance behaviors.