Feeling good about mathematics: A study addressing anxiety amongst pre-service teachers.

Year: 2012

Author: Boyd, Wendy, Foster, Alan, Smith, Jubilee

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Research regarding pre-service teachers' attitudes towards mathematics has revealed that many experience high levels of maths anxiety about both learning and teaching the maths curriculum. This is a problem as mathematics is a national priority curriculum area. Very little is known about the particular characteristics of those pre-service teachers who are more likely to experience anxiety about mathematics. Nor is there available information on the most appropriate methods for ameliorating the concerns.
The current study investigated the characteristics of the pre-service teachers (N=240) in a foundation unit of mathematics in the Bachelors of Education- Early Childhood and Primary Courses- at a regional Australian university in their first year of study. The pre-service teachers' attitudes towards both their past experiences of mathematics, and current attitude to the future teaching of mathematics were explored. A mixed method approach of two surveys, included rating scales and short answer open-ended questions, were answered by the students at the two time points. The surveys included questions derived from the Math Anxiety Rating Scale (MARS) and items designed by the authors to explore attitudes and beliefs about maths education and teaching. All pre-service teachers' responses to the questionnaires were analysed using both statistical procedures of the rating scales, and thematic coding of the qualitative responses to determine the influence of past mathematical experiences on students' attitudes. Those exhibiting anxiety were further analysed to understand the level of concern among students, the characteristics of the students associated with feeling anxious, and the attitudes and beliefs that may subserve their anxiety.
During the session the content of the mathematics unit made explicit connections to the anxiety students may be feeling. Research has shown that when anxiety is discussed then this may lessen its effect. Females have been found to be more anxious about mathematics performance compared to males, and as the student population was 80% females this was a concern. Results indicated that indeed females were more concerned at the beginning of session, and this anxiety reduced significantly by the end of the session. Further findings will be reported. The results identify and recommend possible solutions and interventions for addressing mathematics anxiety.