I don’t know what to do: a Mixed method study of math anxiety as perceived by students and their parents
Elizondo, Andrea Martina
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Mathematics anxiety is a problem for elementary students and affects mathematics self-concept, mathematics performance, and student’s perceptions of their ability to learn mathematics. This mixed method study examined the perceptions of fourth and fifth grade low performing students and their parents concerning their mathematics anxiety, if there was a correlation between parents and their child’s mathematics anxiety, and the mathematics talk occurring at home. The instruments used to measure mathematics anxiety was the Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale for Elementary students (MARS-E) and the Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale for adults (MARS-SV). Interviews were conducted to determine a more in-depth examination of the perceptions of mathematics anxiety experienced by students and their parents and their mathematics talk. There was n=38 families that participated and consisted of one parent and one child. Students attended a school in Southern Texas. Findings provided evidence that there is a relationship between a child and their parent’s mathematics anxiety. Data analysis revealed four themes: Mathematics talk with three subthemes, schoolwork, real-world, and assessment mathematics talk; positive mathematics self-concept; performance anxiety, and test anxiety. The MARS scale results informed the interview questions, and five profiles were found: child and parent with high mathematics anxiety (HMA), child and parent with low mathematics anxiety (LMA), child and parent with moderate mathematics anxiety (MMA), child with LMA and parent with HMA, and child with MMA and parent with HMA. Data analysis used the Confirmatory Six-Factor Model to further decipher the parents MARS-SV scale results which placed anxiety into six categories: Evaluation Anxiety 1” (EA1) corresponding to anxiety experienced from taking mathematics tests, “Evaluation Anxiety 2” (EA2) resembling the anxiety felt when thinking about mathematics tests, “Learning Mathematics Anxiety” (LMA), “Everyday Numerical Anxiety” (ENA), “Performance Anxiety” (PA), and “Social Responsibility Anxiety” (SRA). The study revealed a child and parent’s mathematics anxiety to show similarities such as both experienced mathematics anxiety when thinking about taking mathematics tests, numerical anxiety as in mathematics computations, and performance anxiety such as doing mathematics in front of others. Although, families experienced mathematics anxiety, they still had a positive mathematics self-concept, good attitudes towards mathematics, and their self-perceptions regarding their mathematical skills were high. More importantly, families who experienced mathematics anxiety had a great deal of mathematics talk occurring in the home. Mathematics talk, parent support, parent interactions, and a positive attitude concerning mathematics contributed towards a positive mathematics self-concept, impacted mathematics performance, and generated healthy mathematics attitudes among students. In addition, parents in the study exhibited parent support instead of parent control during mathematics homework and despite, experiencing high mathematics anxiety, parents were cognizant of their mathematics anxiety negatively affecting their children.
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