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Math Anxiety and Teaching Beliefs of a K-5(8) Integrated-STEM Major Compared to Other Teacher Preparation Majors

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Certifying Teachers in Engineering or Integrated STEM

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1044.1 - 22.1044.18



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Paper Authors


Stephen O'Brien College of New Jersey

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Dr. O'Brien is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Technological Studies within the School of Engineering at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ).

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Suriza VanderSandt College of New Jersey

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Research Interest:
Dr. Van der Sandt conducts research in the broad area of pre-service mathematics teacher education. Her research interests include geometry teaching and learning, focusing on spatial orientation and spatial insight. More recently she has also conducted research on factors influencing teaching and learning of pre-service mathematics teachers (e.g. mathematics anxiety) as well as factors affecting observational learning (e.g. self-efficacy and outcome expectations).

Teaching interest:
Dr. Van der Sandt's teaching covers both pure mathematics and
mathematics education. Pure mathematics courses include Calculus and Applied Liberal Art Mathematics. Mathematics education courses include both content courses and methodology courses specifically designed for education students: e.g. Mathematical Structures and Algorithms for Educators; Perspectives on the Development of Mathematics; Teaching
Mathematics in the Early Childhood and the Elementary Classroom; Patterns, Functions, and Algebra for Middle School Teachers and regularly visits schools to observe senior mathematics education majors during their student teaching.

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Elizabeth Dianne Johnson College of New Jersey

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Math anxiety and teaching beliefs of a multidisciplinary K-5(8) STEM major compared to other teacher preparation majorsA recent update on the National Academies report “Rise above the Gathering Storm”indicated that K-12 students in the USA ranked 48th in the world in terms of math andscience capability. Achieving an effective K-12 teacher population is critical toovercoming this problem, and was the first recommendation of the original report in2007. Having low anxiety, high self-efficacy and high outcomes expectancy in a subjectis important to becoming an effective teacher in that subject. The K-8 grade range is animportant grade range for students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math(STEM) subjects is K-8 because after this grade range both affect and capabilities arelargely determined. Therefore, an important outcome of K-8 teacher preparationprograms nationwide should be graduates with low math anxiety and strong mathteaching beliefs. Low math anxiety has been correlated with low science anxiety,allowing one measure to be a reasonable indicator for two STEM components. In thispaper we present the results of ~1000 measurements of math anxiety, math teaching self-efficacy (SE) and math teaching outcomes expectancy (OE) of ~250 K-5 teachercandidates. These analyses are broken down by specific disciplinary major, resulting in acomprehensive assessment of the relative preparedness of eleven different majors toteach math, and by inference science. One of the majors is a multidisciplinary STEMmajor referred to the Math/Science/Technology (MST) major. The MST major wasstarted in 1998 and consists of a substantial level of all four STEM components, as wellas integrated-STEM. Upon graduation, most MST majors are also endorsed for middleschool math or science (and often both). Before the MST program, STEM majorsaccounted for only 10-15% of the total K-5 teacher candidate population. Currently,MST majors alone comprise ~30% of the total K-5 teacher candidates. MST majors arealso required to pick a specialization (in Math, a Science or Tech./Eng.). An analysis ofthe measured quantities by specialization subcategory also yields interesting results.Measurements of math anxiety, SE and OE were taken before and after two requiredmath courses. The first course (MAT105) is a content course for education majors whilethe second course (MAT202) is a methods course. The instruments used were theRevised-Mathematics Anxiety Survey (R-MANX) and the Mathematics TeachingEfficacy Belief Instrument (MTEBI/pre-service). Measurements of math anxiety for thispopulation were previously reported but only compared STEM majors to theconglomerate population of non-STEM majors. In this study, the analysis is broken-downby major and specialization, and two other measurements of SE and OE are added. Atour institution there are eight non-STEM majors and three STEM majors. The non-STEM majors are Psychology, English, History, Woman & Gender Studies (WGS),Spanish, Sociology, Art and Music. The three STEM majors are Math, Biology and MST.A brief summary of the measurements is given below. (1) Math anxiety: (a) Many majors showed statistically significant longitudinal decreases in anxiety. However, STEM students did exhibit substantially lower math anxiety. (b) The lowest anxieties were exhibited by K-5 Math majors. MST majors exhibited the second lowest anxieties but were statistically equal to K-5 Math. (c) The highest math anxiety levels were exhibited by the non-STEM majors of English (+30%), Sociology (+27%) and WGS (+25%), where he number in parenthesis is the anxiety level relative to Math majors. Our data indicate that ~20% of the non-STEM majors will have compromised teaching capabilities in math (R- MANX>95) compared to approximately none for the Math and MST majors. (d) The MST subpopulation of Tech./Eng. specialization showed the largest decreases in anxiety (and SE), resulting in anxiety (and SE) levels equal to K-5 Math majors. This suggests that T&E curriculum may be beneficial. (2) Math teaching self-efficacy (SE): (a) Using averages by major over the four measurement points, our data show that SE is highly correlated to math anxiety (correlation coefficient was -0.87). (3) Math teaching outcomes expectancy (OE): (a) With two exceptions, all majors had high OE: (i) Spanish students had lower OE and (ii) the Art-Music population had low OE before completing MAT202.The data presented in this paper is, we believe, the only comprehensive study of K-5math anxiety and math teaching beliefs by disciplinary major. Our data verify that STEMmajors are better prepared than non-STEM majors to teach math, and by inferencescience. One-in-five non-STEM students had high math anxiety compared toapproximately none of the STEM majors. The average math-SAT score for our non-STEM population is relatively high (~600) compared to the 2006/07 national average of~480 for Education schools and is on par with the ~614 average for Engineering schools,so this 1-in-5 fraction is likely larger nationally.The anxiety and SE levels exhibited by Tech./Eng.-specialization MST majors indicatethat a multidisciplinary STEM major may have substantial benefits. For example, MSTmajors only have 2-to-4 math courses (compared to 12 for K-5 Math majors), but afterMAT202 they are statistically identical to math majors. A possible reason for this is thatapplied math, motivated by realistic engineering problems, is spread throughout the T&Ecurriculum. Other aspects of the MST program could also influence the measuredquantities, and will be discussed. Lastly, MST K-5 majors would also likely exhibit lowanxiety, high SE and high OE in T&E subject matter, enabling them to truly be STEMteachers, including integrated-STEM activities, which may enable even further benefits.

O'Brien, S., & VanderSandt, S., & Johnson, E. D. (2011, June), Math Anxiety and Teaching Beliefs of a K-5(8) Integrated-STEM Major Compared to Other Teacher Preparation Majors Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18325

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