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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
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A110682

Co-Principal Investigators: Levine, Susan; Raudenbush, Steve

Purpose: The goal of this project was 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 explored the relation between teachers' math anxiety and students' math achievement. 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.

Project Activities: Working with first and second grade teachers and students, the researchers conducted three studies. In the first study they gathered student and teacher data at the beginning and end of the school year to explore how students' math anxiety and attitudes related to their math achievement. In the second study they observed teachers identified with low or high math anxiety as they taught their students in mathematics and reading. The researchers also observed behavior and explored if those behaviors were related to student achievement. In the third study they tested whether exposure to different teacher practices were associated with student math and reading anxiety, stereotypes, and math and reading performance.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research was conducted in Chicago public schools.

Sample: Participants  sampled included children enrolled in first and second grade classrooms in Chicago public schools and their teachers. The racial makeup of Chicago's public school students was diverse during the study period: 41 percent of students enrolled were African American, 36 percent were Caucasian, and 19 percent were Latino. This diversity was 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 was very similar to that of students, with 31 percent African American, 49 percent Caucasian, and 15 percent Latino.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers conducted three studies to explore the association between first and second grade students' math anxiety, math attitudes, and math achievement. Of particular focus was the relationship between teachers' math anxiety and their students' math achievement. In all three studies, they examined students' and teachers' reading attitudes, anxiety, and knowledge as a comparison domain.

In Study 1, the research  team used a within subjects pre/post design to measure the relation between teachers' anxiety and students' achievement at the beginning and end of the school year. Participants included about 460 first and second grade students and about 70 of their female teachers.

In Study 2, the researchers observed classroom practices of a subset of Year 1 teachers with high (n =20) and low math anxiety (n = 20) along with about 240 of their students. Researchers blind to teacher anxiety observed teachers during math and reading lessons on three separate occasions during the school year. The researchers focused on teacher pedagogy, displays of math anxieties, and differential gender treatment.

In Study 3, students viewed three short video clips of teachers providing mathematics and reading instruction. The videos depicted three different teacher practices focusing on pedagogy, anxiety and attitudes, and differential gender treatment. For each of the three teacher practice studies, 32 students per grade participated with 16 students per condition (total of 192 first and second graders). Each study consisted of a 2 (domain: reading or math) x 2 (behavior: positive or negative) design. The first factor was within subjects and the second factor was randomly assigned between subjects. After viewing each video clip, students completed measures on math and reading anxiety, stereotypes, and math and reading performance.

Key Measures: Primary outcome measures included 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. Researchers also conducted direct assessment of teachers' math and reading anxiety, math and reading attitudes, and math and reading knowledge. For example, researchers used 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. The researchers also developed a measure of math anxiety for early elementary students. They also observed mathematics and reading instruction in the classrooms.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers analyzed the data using general linear modeling, repeated measures analysis of variance, and hierarchical linear modeling to account for the nesting of students within teachers and schools.

Products and Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Beilock, S.L., and Maloney, E.A. (2015). Math Anxiety: A Factor in Math Achievement not to be Ignored. Policy Insights From the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2(1): 4–12.

Chang, H., and Beilock, S.L. (2016). The math anxiety-math performance link and its relation to individual and environmental factors: A review of current behavioral and psychophysiological research. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 10, 33–38.

Chang, H., Sprute, L., Maloney, E.A., Beilock, S.L., and Berman, M.G. (2017). Simple arithmetic: not so simple for highly math anxious individuals. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 12(12), 1940–1949.

Foley, A.E., Herts, J.B., Borgonovi, F., Guerriero, S., Levine, S.C., and Beilock, S.L. (2017). The math anxiety-performance link: A global phenomenon. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 26(1), 52–58.

Gunderson, E.A., Park, D., Maloney, E.A., Beilock, S.L., and Levine, S.C. (2018). Reciprocal Relations among Motivational Frameworks, Math Anxiety, and Math Achievement in Early Elementary School. Journal of Cognition and Development, 19(1): 21–46.

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(8): 404–406.

Maloney, E.A., Converse, B.A., Gibbs, C., Levine, S.C., and Beilock, S.L. (2015). Jump-Starting Early Childhood Education at Home: Early Learning, Parent Motivation, and Public Policy. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(6): 727–732.

Maloney, E.A., Ramirez, G., Gunderson, E.A., Levine, S.C., and Beilock, S.L. (2015). Intergenerational Effects of Parents' Math Anxiety on Children's Math Achievement and Anxiety. Psychological Science, 26(9): 1480–1488.

Maloney, E.A., Sattizahn, J. and Beilock, S.L. (2014). Anxiety and Cognition. WIREs Cognitive Science, 5(4): 403–411.

Maloney, E.A., Schaeffer, M.W., and Beilock, S.L. (2013). Mathematics Anxiety and Stereotype Threat: Shared Mechanisms, Negative Consequences and Promising Interventions. Research in Mathematics Education, 15(2): 115–128.

Park, D., Gunderson, E.A., Tsukayama, E., Levnie, S.C, and Beilock, S.L. (2016). Young Children's Motivational Frameworks and Math Achievement: Relation to Teacher-Reported Instructional Practices, but not Teacher Theory of Intelligence. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108(3): 300–313.

Ramirez, G. (2017). Motivated forgetting in early mathematics: A proof-of-concept study. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 2087.

Ramirez, G., Chang, H., Maloney, E.A., Levine, S., and Beilock, S.L. (2016). On the Relationship Between Math Anxiety and Math Achievement in Early Elementary School: The Role of Problem Solving Strategies. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 141: 83–100.

Ramirez, G., Fries, L., Gunderson, E., Schaeffer, M.W., Maloney, E. A., Beilock, S.L., and Levine, S.C. (2019). Reading Anxiety: An Early Affective Impediment to Children's Success in Reading. Journal of Cognition and Development, 20(1), 15–34.