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Assessing the Attitudes, Beliefs, and Confidence of Teachers of Early Math

Sat, April 18, 2:45 to 4:15pm, Hyatt, Floor: East Tower - Purple Level, Riverside West


The purpose of this paper is to discuss a newly developed assessment of teachers’ attitudes, beliefs, and confidence regarding the teaching and learning of early mathematics.
Teacher attitudes, beliefs, and confidence have direct implications for developers and providers of professional development (PD). Teacher attitudes and beliefs are means by which teachers interpret new information, perceive contexts, and select courses of action (Fives & Buehl, 2012). In addition, teachers who are confident in their abilities are more receptive to learning new skills (Yesil-Dagli, Lake, & Jones, 2010). Unfortunately, reliable and valid measures of teacher attitudes, beliefs, and confidence are not widely available.
Modes of Inquiry
The ABC-EM consists of 49 statements that tap teachers’ attitudes toward math in general and their enjoyment in teaching math; teachers’ beliefs about the appropriateness of early math for young children, effects of home environment on mathematics learning, English Language Learners and math learning, personal mathematics competence, adequacy of preparation, and current need for support; and teachers’ confidence in understanding math content for teaching and performing specific math teaching tasks. Teachers are asked to rate each statement on a 1 (strongly disagree) to 10 (strongly agree) scale.
Data Sources
A total of 182 preschool through third grade teachers completed the Attitudes, Beliefs, and Confidence in Early Mathematics (ABC-EM) survey at the beginning of the school year. Measures of math achievement were collected on 1076 students at the beginning and end of the same school year. These students were linked to 144 of the 182 teachers. The math achievement measures consisted of the Applied Problems subtest from the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement – Third Edition (WJIII-AP; Woodcock, McGrew, & Mather, 2001) and the Tools for Early Assessment in Math (TEAM; Clements & Sarama, 2011).
Principle axis factoring with a Promax rotation was used to estimate the underlying factor structure of the ABC-EM. A 5-factor model provided the best fit to the data, but three of the factors did not make theoretical sense. The remaining factors were labeled Confidence and Positive Math Attitudes (Attitudes), with internal consistencies (Cronbach’s α) of .95 and .91, respectively.
Three-level hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) analyses were conducted to determine if teacher scores on the two viable factors predicted student math achievement at the end of the year, controlling for fall math achievement scores (grand mean centered). Both Confidence and Attitudes were significant predictors of end of the year TEAM scores (see Tables 1 and 2). Neither factor predicted end of the year WJIII-AP scores.
This paper demonstrates that PD developers and providers should extend their focus to improving teachers’ attitudes toward math and their confidence in teaching math to young children. However, developing reliable and valid measures of teacher attitudes and beliefs can be challenging, particularly when the goal is to use these measures to evaluate the impact of an intervention on teacher attitudes and beliefs. Discussion about these challenges will help to move the field forward.