Doctor of Philosophy
Mathematics self-efficacy is defined as one’s beliefs of their ability to complete mathematics tasks (Pajares 2006). Previous research demonstrates that mathematics self-efficacy influences educational choices and attainment. Specifically, people with higher mathematics self-efficacy are more likely to aspire to participate in STEM majors and careers (Lent et al. 1996; Trusty and Niles 2003). STEM occupations tend to have high levels of income (Stratte et al. 2020), and thus mathematics self-efficacy also predicts occupational outcomes and chances for social mobility. This dissertation uses data from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS 1998-2000) to shed light on the factors that affect students' mathematics-efficacy, which in turn, impact educational and occupational outcomes. It also extends existing literature on gender differences in STEM education, suggesting that interventions supporting students’ mathematics-efficacy should be aimed towards women and disadvantaged students, for whom higher levels of math-efficacy could increase chances for social mobility.
The dissertation takes the form of three separate, but related, empirical research paper. Chapter 2 examines whether students' perceptions of their teachers' emphasis on mathematics, and type of school, are associated with students' mathematics-efficacy. I find that math teachers matter more for low SES students than for students from more privileged backgrounds. Chapter 3 explores how in-class teaching practices impact students' mathematics-efficacy. I find a positive relationship between teachers' emphasis on conceptual mathematics knowledge and students' mathematics-efficacy, suggesting that teachers' in-class practices are critical for engaging students in mathematics related fields. Finally, Chapter 4 investigates the relationship between math-efficacy and the likelihood of enrolling and completing a STEM degree and how this relationship differs by gender. I find that higher levels of mathematics-efficacy are associated with higher probabilities of enrollment in and completion of physical STEM degrees, especially for males.
Summary for Lay Audience
Using survey data representative of the population of US students, this study examines the factors that associated with mathematics self-efficacy— i.e., students' beliefs in their ability to complete a mathematics task, such as solving a mathematic problem, and succeeding in mathematics-related courses (Betz and Hackett 1983; Pajares 2006). Chapter 2, examines whether students' perceptions of their teachers' emphasis on mathematics, and type of school, are associated with different levels of students' mathematics self-efficacy, and whether these effects vary across students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. My results demonstrate that math teachers matter more for low SES students and illuminate the important role of teachers in the process of shaping mathematics self-efficacy among them.
Chapter 3 examines the in-class teaching practices that enhance positive impact on students' mathematics-efficacy. The findings demonstrate that teachers' in-class emphasis on conceptual mathematics knowledge is associated with higher levels of students' mathematics self-efficacy. I further show that math teachers' in-class practices occupy an important role in engaging students in mathematics related fields.
Finally, Chapter 4 investigates the effect of mathematics-efficacy on the likelihood to enroll and complete a STEM/ non-STEM degree, and whether this likelihood varies by young men and women. The results show that higher levels of math-efficacy are associated with higher chances to enroll and complete physical STEM degrees, and that this effect is higher among young men.
Dangur-Levy, Shahar, "Mathematics Self-Efficacy and its Relation to STEM Education" (2023). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9177.
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