Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mathematics Anxiety in Preservice Teachers: An Overview

by Marianne Wesseling
 
Panic, paranoia, frustration, helplessness and hopelessness, these are just some of the symptoms of mathematics anxiety. “I hate math!”, “I can’t do it!”, and “Why do we have to know this stuff?” can be heard through hallways across the continent. Mathematics anxiety is present in our elementary schools and the Ontario Ministry of Education (2004) affirms that many elementary teachers have some level of math anxiety. It is time for educators to take a stand to prevent math anxiety in their students and we must start with examining math anxiety in the preservice teachers themselves.
As new teachers enter the workforce each year, many are left wondering how competent they will be in teaching math.  Elementary school mathematics is becoming increasingly involved and many teachers are finding the curriculum challenging and unnerving (Frykholm, 2004).  If we are going to change the math anxiety levels of tomorrow’s students, we must start by decreasing the math anxiety levels in today’s preservice teachers.  The problem, however, lies in the fact that many preservice teachers are unaware that the feelings of fear and apprehension they have towards teaching math are in fact, signs of math anxiety.  It is not surprising that research has uncovered a negative relationship between a preservice teacher’s efficacy to teach math, and the mathematics anxiety they possess (Swars, Daane, & Giesen, 2006).  It is important that preservice teachers come to terms with their math anxiety and its source so that they can overcome it and take steps to become confident and effective elementary math teachers.  
While there is no simple solution to the complexity of math anxiety (Perry, 2004), we can start by attempting to give our preservice teachers the knowledge base, guidance, and conceptual understanding they need to become confident and effective mathematics teachers.  Equally important, will be a teacher’s ability to understand mathematical content so that they are able to teach math effectively and thereby prevent and reduce math anxiety in their students (Gresham, 2007).  This mathematical knowledge base and guidance should be part of the curriculum offered to preservice teachers.  The content of these method courses need to be examined as it is apparent that preservice teachers are entering the profession each year with math anxiety. This anxiety has led some teachers to believe they will be unable to teach math confidently which has a direct impact on the students they will be teaching (Brady & Bowd, 2005).  It is essential that preservice teachers reduce math anxiety in themselves and become aware of how their actions and negative feelings about math impact their students in their elementary years.  In order for students to succeed academically in math at the secondary and post secondary level, they must first have a strong foundation coming out of their elementary classrooms (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2004; U.S. Department of Education, 2006).  To lay this foundation, confident teachers are needed who are prepared to use strategies to teach math that will build confidence in their students.  The New York State Education Department and the Ontario Ministry of Education agree that teachers are in need of leadership and guidance and that student achievement in mathematics will improve by increasing the content knowledge and pedagogy of teachers (Schiano & Svendsen, 2007; Ontario Ministry of Education, 2004).  
The role of a teacher in part is to provide children with the tools and expertise to enter society as self-directed, self-motivated and confident learners.  Mathematics anxiety can be detrimental in a student’s journey to higher education.  It is well known that academic achievement in math is a requirement for many careers and post secondary institutions.  Preservice teachers need to be provided with strategies to teach math confidently and effectively because mathematics knowledge contributes to a child’s success in school and in everyday life.  The Ontario Ministry of Education (2007) attests to the fact that understanding math builds confidence and opens doors to a range of jobs and careers.  If teachers are to produce a new generation of students who will be innovators for this country, they need to act now to prevent mathematics anxiety in the elementary classroom.

My other posts on Math Anxiety
Mathematics Anxiety in Preservice Teachers: An Overview 
Symptoms of Mathematics Anxiety
The Effects of Mathematics Anxiety
Why is Mathematics Anxiety in Preservice Teachers Worrisome? 
Where Does Mathematics Anxiety in Preservice Teachers Stem From?
What Strategies Can Be Provided to Preservice Teachers to Decrease Mathematics Anxiety?
The Power of Positivity 
Examining Learning Styles
Why Use Manipulatives? 
Mathematics in Children's Literature 










Sources:
Brady, P. & Bowd, A. (2005). Mathematics Anxiety, Prior Experience and Confidence to Teach Mathematics among Pre-Service Education Students. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 11(1), 37-46. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ821336) Retrieved May 12, 2009, from Eric Database.
Gresham, G. (2007, October). Study of Mathematics Anxiety in Pre-Service Teachers. Early Childhood Education Journal, 35(2), 181. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ775797) Retrieved July 8, 2008, from Eric Database.
Gresham, G. (2007, December).  An Invitation into the Investigation of the Relationship between Mathematics Anxiety and Learning Styles in Elementary Preservice Teachers.  Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice, 13, 24-33. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ791538) Retrieved July 8, 2008, from Eric Database.
Frykholm, J. (2004). Teachers' Tolerance for Discomfort: Implications for Curricular Reform in Mathematics. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 19(2), 125-149.  (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ732348) Retrieved July 9, 2008 from Eric Database.
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2007). Helping Your Child Do Mathematics – A Guide for Parents Kindergarten to Grade 6.  Retrieved May 14, 2009 from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/parentGuideNum.pdf.
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2004). Teaching and Learning Mathematics – The Report of the Expert Panel on Mathematics in Grades 4 to 6 in Ontario.  Retrieved May 14, 2009, from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/reports/numeracy/panel/numeracy.pdf.
Perry, A. (2004). Decreasing Math Anxiety in College Students. College Student Journal, 38(2), 321. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ704967) Retrieved July 8, 2008, from Eric Database.
Schiano, A., & Svendsen, J. (2007). New York State Mathematics Initiative. Retrieved May 14, 2009, from New York State Education Department http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/mst/minitiative.html.

Swars, S.L., Daane, C.J., & Giesen, J. (2006). Mathematics Anxiety and Mathematics Teacher Efficacy: What is the Relationship in Elementary Preservice Teachers? School Science and Mathematics, 106(7), 306.  Retrieved July 6, 2008, from Research Library database. (Document ID: 1305568341).
U.S. Department of Education. (2006). Math Now: Advancing Math Education in Elementary and Middle School.  Retrieved May 14, 2009 from http://www.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/competitiveness/math-now.html.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for told us, There is no simple solution to the complexity of math anxiety (Perry, 2004), we can start by attempting to give our preservice teachers the knowledge base, guidance, and conceptual understanding they need to become confident and effective mathematics teachers. This is a great achievement for every student .Your post will be definitely useful for all kinds of students. keep on sharing more, All those people who are looking for someone to write papers can contact with us,

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