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Building the wall brick by brick: one prospective teacher’s experiences with mathematics anxiety

Abstract

Mathematics education researchers have investigated mathematics anxiety in prospective elementary teachers. While many of these studies have focused on the bodily sensations and emotions of mathematics anxiety, particularly those felt in assessment situations, opportunities remain to investigate how prospective elementary teachers interpret their experiences with mathematics anxiety and connect them over time to compose personal histories of mathematics anxiety. Currently, over 90 % of elementary teachers in US schools are women, and women have been shown to suffer more from mathematics anxiety than do men. In this article, I analyze how one woman prospective elementary teacher described, explained, and related her experiences of mathematics anxiety across her personal narratives of learning mathematics as a K-12 student and of learning to teach mathematics as a college student in a teacher preparation program. My research demonstrates that experiences of mathematics anxiety may persist beyond assessment situations to influence women prospective elementary teachers’ larger mathematical histories. I also show that women prospective elementary teachers may interpret mathematics anxiety as specific fears (e.g., loss of opportunities for social participation) and may develop particular coping strategies related to those fears. Finally, I point out that while a coping strategy may be used consistently across K-12 mathematics learning and undergraduate teacher preparation, and may even offer a woman prospective elementary teacher some relief from mathematics anxiety, it may also limit her mathematics learning and professional development. To conclude, I present implications of my research for mathematics teacher educators.

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Notes

  1. The larger Teach Math Project includes six university sites. Data for this study were drawn from one of the sites.

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Acknowledgments

This material is partially supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number [1228034]. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to Kathleen Jablon Stoehr.

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Stoehr, K.J. Building the wall brick by brick: one prospective teacher’s experiences with mathematics anxiety. J Math Teacher Educ 20, 119–139 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10857-015-9322-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10857-015-9322-y

Keywords

  • Mathematics anxiety
  • Narratives
  • Confidence
  • Prospective teachers
  • Coping strategy