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Institute of Education Sciences

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IES Grant

Title: An Exploration of Malleable Social and Cognitive Factors Associated with Early Elementary School Students' Mathematics Achievement
Center: NCER Year: 2011
Principal Investigator: Beilock, Sian Awardee: University of Chicago
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,157,723
Goal: Exploration Award Number: R305A110682

Co-Principal Investigator: Susan Levine and Steve Raudenbush

Purpose: Individuals who have negative attitudes about mathematics are often high in mathematics anxiety. Math anxious individuals also tend to have poor math knowledge and often avoid math courses and math-related career paths. Thus, negative math attitudes can have an adverse effect on students' mathematics and science achievement. The goal of this project is to explore how young students' mathematics anxiety and attitudes relate to their mathematics achievement, as well as the cognitive factors that mediate identified anxiety-achievement relations. In addition, the researchers will explore the relation between teachers' math anxiety and students' math achievement.

Project Activities: Working with first and second grade teachers and students, the researchers will conduct three studies. The first study will gather student and teacher data at the beginning and end of the school year to explore how students' math anxiety and attitudes relate to their math achievement. The study will also seek to identify cognitive factors that mediate (e.g., math problem solving strategies) this anxiety-achievement relation. The second study will observe teachers' identified with low or high math anxiety as they teach their students in mathematics and reading. The researchers will also examine code observed behavior, and explore if those behaviors are related to student achievement. The third study will experimentally test whether exposure to different teacher practices are associated with student math and reading anxiety, stereotypes, and math and reading performance.

Products: The products of this project include peer-reviewed publications describing identified relations among math anxiety, math attitudes, and achievement in early elementary school students.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will be conducted in first and second grade classrooms in Chicago public schools.

Population: The populations from which participants will be sampled will include children enrolled in first and second grade classrooms in Chicago public schools and their teachers. The racial makeup of Chicago public schools' students is diverse: 41 percent of students enrolled are African-American, 36 percent are Caucasian, and 19 percent are Latino. This diversity is reflected in family socioeconomic status as well, with 87 percent of students in 2010 eligible for free or partial reduced lunch. The racial breakdown of teachers is very similar to that of students with 31 percent African-American, 49 percent Caucasian, and 15 percent Latino.

Research Design and Methods: Three studies will be conducted to explore the association between first and second grade students' math anxiety, math attitudes, and math achievement. Of particular focus will be the relationship between teachers' math anxiety and their students' math achievement. In all three studies, students' and teachers' reading attitudes, anxiety, and knowledge will also be examined as a comparison domain. In Study 1, a within subjects pre/post design will be used to measure the relation between teachers' anxiety and students' achievement at the beginning and end of the school year. Participants will include 460 first and second grade students, and 70 of their female teachers. In Study 2, the classroom practices of a subset of Year 1 teachers with high (n =20) and low math anxiety (n = 20) along with 240 of their students will be observed. Researchers blind to teacher anxiety will observe teachers during math and reading lessons on three separate occasions during the school year. The researchers will focus on teacher pedagogy, displays of math anxieties, and differential gender treatment. In Study 3, students will view three short video clips of teachers providing mathematics and reading instruction. The videos will depict three different teacher practices focusing on pedagogy, anxiety and attitudes, and differential gender treatment. Separate studies of each of the three teacher practice categories will be conducted. For each of the three studies, 32 students per grade will participate with 16 students per condition (total of 192 first and second graders). Each study will consist of a 2 (domain: reading or math) x 2 (behavior: positive or negative) design. The first factor will be within subjects and the second factor will be randomly assigned between subjects. After viewing each video clip, students will complete measures on math and reading anxiety, stereotypes, and math and reading performance.

Key Measures: Primary outcome measures include direct assessments of students' math and reading anxiety, math and reading attitudes, math and reading gender attitudes, working memory, math problem solving strategies, and math and reading achievement. Direct assessment of teachers' math and reading anxiety, math and reading attitudes, and math and reading knowledge will also occur. For example, researchers will use standardized measures such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III) to assess working memory and the Woodcock-Johnson III (WJ-III) to assess math achievement. Researcher-developed measures such as a measure of math anxiety for early elementary students will be used. Classroom observations of mathematics and reading instruction will also be conducted.

Data Analytic Strategy: Data analysis will be conducted using general linear modeling, repeated measures analysis of variance, and hierarchical linear modeling when there is a need to account for the nesting of students within teachers and schools.

Publications from this project:

Maloney, E., and Beilock, S.L. (2012). Math Anxiety: Who Has It, Why It Develops, and How To Guard Against It. Trends in Cognitive Science, 16: 404–406.