Marjorie Schaeffer. Understanding the effects of teachers' math anxiety on children's math attitudes and achievement ($50K)

Students in classrooms where their teachers are high in math anxiety learn less math over the course of the school year. But, why? And, are some students more affected than others by their teachers’ math attitudes and anxieties? Low income students perform significantly worse on standardized math exams than their high income peers and may be especially susceptible to information that portrays school in a negative light. Thus, the math performance of low income students might be especially affected by their teachers’ math attitudes. This project explores the mechanism by which high math anxious teachers impact their students, and whether or not low income students are most affected by their teachers’ math attitudes and anxieties. Analyzing previously collected videos of teachers delivering math lessons, we will code for teaching differences between high and low math anxious teachers, including differences in (a) language used to talk about math, (b) teacher gestures, and (c) discourse with students around math concepts. If differences in teaching practices between high and low math anxious teachers are found, five minute segments of videos portraying these differences will be collected and shown to lower elementary school students varying in SES. Students will fill out questionnaires about their own math attitudes and anxieties and take a short math test related to the content of the videos they watched – a 2(teacher math anxiety: low, high) x 2(student SES: low, high) design. We expect that being taught a math lesson by a high math anxious teacher will lead to lower math learning and less positive math attitudes, especially for low SES children.

schaeffer.JPGMarjorie Schaeffer
(Psychology)