Preschool caregivers' mathematical anxiety: Examining the relationships between mathematical anxiety, and knowledge and beliefs about mathematics for young children

Cox, Gail
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The purpose of this descriptive, quantitative approach study was to identify dimensions of mathematical anxiety as well as knowledge and beliefs related to children's mathematical development and the curriculum in preschool classrooms. The mathematical anxiety scores were correlated with levels of knowledge and beliefs about mathematics for young children. Preschool caregivers in Bell and Coryell counties in Central Texas were asked to complete the four part survey. The survey tools used were: Mathematics Anxiety Scale-Revised instrument; Knowledge of Mathematical Development Survey; Beliefs about Mathematics Teaching and Learning in the Preschool Classroom Survey, and a demographic questionnaire. Of the fully licensed child care centers, 36% agreed to allow their preschool caregivers to complete the survey. The survey was completed by 207 individuals. This was a 76% return rate of the surveys.

Mathematical Anxiety resulted in identification of three domains—High Positive Affect; High Negative Affect and Mixed Affect. The Knowledge of Mathematical Development scores showed that caregivers identified the correct sequence of math development in 55% of the items. Beliefs about Mathematics Teaching and Learning in the Preschool Classroom was a 40 statement survey. Caregivers strongly agreed that mathematics were age appropriate and important goals for preschool curriculum. They believed they were knowledgeable and comfortable with teaching math and believed that the teacher should play a central role in teaching mathematics in preschool.

The correlations of Knowledge and Beliefs had significant interaction in a positive way when comparing the Beliefs of Age-Appropriateness, Goals about Math in the Classroom, Comfort Level of Teaching Mathematics, and negative correlation with Locus of Generation of Mathematical Knowledge subscale. When comparisons of Knowledge and Math Anxiety groups were examined the Math Anxiety scores did not differ significantly when knowledge of children's mathematical development was measured. Those in the High Positive Affect group tended to have the highest number of correct responses on the Knowledge survey while the Mixed Affect group scored lowest number of correct responses. The Math Anxiety subscales tended to follow the pattern that the High Positive Affect group scored highest on the Beliefs, followed by the Mixed Affect group. The High Negative Affect group scored the lowest on the three Beliefs subscales. High Positive and High Negative were most dissimilar.

Results of this study have implication for professional development, college professors, center directors, caregivers and children. Recommendations for future research were addressed.

Education, Mathematics anxiety, Preschool caregivers, Young children