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Using Informal Interactions to Decrease Mathematics Anxiety with Pre-Service Elementary Teachers

Principal Investigators: Monica Karunakaran

Dates: September 2017 – Present

Abstract:  There is a large body of research that documents mathematics anxiety among elementary pre-service teachers (PSTs) (e.g., Dutton, 1951; Gresham, 2007; Sloan, 2010). Anxiety about mathematics leaves many PSTs with the belief that they are not good at doing mathematics, a fear of doing mathematics, and the response that they do not want to talk about or display this fear to others. An important aspect of elementary PSTs’ education is to boost their mathematical content knowledge for teaching (Ball, Thames, & Phelps, 2008) through courses specifically designed for this purpose. However, PSTs may not believe they have anything to learn from such mathematics content courses (Thanheiser, Phillip, Fasteen, Strand, & Mills, 2015). This belief coupled with their math anxiety may leave PSTs feeling disconnected from the mathematics teacher educators (MTEs) who teach these specialized mathematics courses. One way for MTEs to engage with PSTs in a mathematics course is to interact with them informally (Lamport, 1993). Informal conversations present the opportunity to increase PSTs’ confidence and address their anxiety regarding the mathematical content. One potential venue for informal conversations are MTE’s office hours. However, it can be difficult to encourage the PST population to attend office hours.

This research is examining a practice designed to increase the instances of informal interactions between MTEs and PSTs during office hours to see if there is a difference in PSTs’ mathematics anxiety levels over time.