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Teachers are strong role models for their pupils, especially at the beginning of education. This also holds true for math: If teachers feel anxious about math, the consequences on the mathematical education of their pupils is detrimental. Previous studies have shown that (future) elementary school teachers have higher levels of math anxiety than most people studying other subjects. Here, we set out to conceptually replicate these findings (e.g., meta-analysis by Hembree, 1990, https://doi.org/10.2307/749455) by comparing math anxiety levels of pre-service and in-service German and Belgian elementary school teachers to a reference group of German university students from various fields of study. Moreover, we questioned this finding by asking which elementary school teachers experience math anxiety, considering gender, specialization, and experience, and investigated how math anxiety relates to teaching attitudes towards math. We replicated the previous finding by showing that female elementary school teachers have a higher level of math anxiety as compared to other female students. Importantly, female elementary school teachers without math specialization indeed had higher levels of math anxiety than female students from other fields and almost a quarter of them experience critical math anxiety. In contrast, female elementary school teachers with math specialization did not show an increased level of math anxiety as compared to the reference sample. Considering that not only these but all teachers, regardless of specialization, teach math in elementary school in the investigated educational systems, the math anxiety of elementary school teachers is a potential problem for their pupils’ math attitudes and learning.

The samples of pre-service and in-service elementary school teachers consisted of German teachers and French-speaking Belgian teachers. The German teachers were recruited via internal e-mails within the Ludwigsburg University of Education, via e-mails of a school headmaster, and via personal contacts. The Belgian teachers were recruited via e-mails of professors of the elementary school education program to current and former students. After exclusion (see

Sample | German Teachers | Belgian Teachers | Reference Sample |
---|---|---|---|

164 | 191 | 1049 | |

Exclusion criteria ( |
|||

Not finished | 22 | 45 | 110 |

Not eligible | 8 | 3 | 34 |

Noisy environment | 0 | 12 | 36 |

Dishonest responses | 0 | 0 | 4 |

Duration > 30 min | 3 | 4 | 17 |

131 | 127 | 848 |

As a reference sample, German university students who studied various subjects other than elementary school education were recruited via internal e-mail within the University of Tuebingen. In the recruiting e-mail, age of 18 years or above and German as native language were stated as inclusion criteria. After exclusion (see

Participants were consecutively excluded from the initial sample based on non-completion of the survey, ineligibility for the specific sample, very or extremely noisy environment during study completion, responding dishonestly, and for spending more than 30 min on the survey (because of a median completion duration of under 15 min) (see

All participants gave informed consent via mouse click and were offered to enter a raffle for vouchers upon completion. The study was approved by the Ethics Committee for Psychological Research of the University of Tuebingen.

Math anxiety was assessed by the abbreviated math anxiety scale (AMAS;

The AMAS is characterized by adequate reliability and validity in the original English form as well as in several other language forms (_{tt}

For teachers only, the enjoyment of teaching math (“I like teaching math.”) and the ease of teaching math (“Teaching math is easy for me.”) were assessed on a 5-point Likert scale (1 =

The study was conducted as an online survey on the SoSci Survey platform (

Data were statistically analyzed using jamovi (The jamovi project, Version 1.1, 2019) based on R (_{10}_{10}_{01}_{01}_{01}_{10}

Our samples of elementary school teachers included a low proportion of males (13.57%). This was not a problem of sampling, but rather reflects the fact that the vast majority of elementary school teachers in both countries are female. While this is a real-life problem, unfortunately the power for statistical analysis would be too low when considering gender as an additional factor (_{10}

Since teacher data were collected in Germany and in Belgium, we tested whether these samples differed regarding math anxiety. There was no significant difference in math anxiety between the female German teachers (_{01}

An independent samples _{10}

Group | |||||
---|---|---|---|---|---|

Math Anxiety | |||||

Teachers | |||||

Yes | 223 | 20.85 | 7.25 | ||

No | 597 | 19.65 | 6.51 | ||

Math Anxiety of Teachers | |||||

Specialization | |||||

Yes | Experience | Pre-service | 91 | 18.99 | 6.47 |

In-service | 38 | 19.13 | 6.83 | ||

No | Experience | Pre-service | 72 | 23.26 | 7.42 |

In-service | 22 | 23.64 | 7.71 | ||

Enjoyment of Teaching Math^{a} |
|||||

Specialization | |||||

Yes | 116 | 4.45 | 0.75 | ||

No | 66 | 3.71 | 1.08 | ||

Experience | |||||

Pre-service | 127 | 4.19 | 0.95 | ||

In-service | 55 | 4.16 | 0.96 | ||

Ease of Teaching Math^{a} |
|||||

Specialization | |||||

Yes | 115 | 4.05 | 0.78 | ||

No | 66 | 3.42 | 0.95 | ||

Experience | |||||

Pre-service | 126 | 3.76 | 0.90 | ||

In-service | 55 | 3.96 | 0.88 |

^{a}For the analyses of teaching attitudes, elementary school teachers who selected the option “not yet taught” were excluded (

To examine if math anxiety differs between different groups of teachers, an ANOVA was conducted with the between-subject factors specialization (math or not) and experience (pre-service or in-service) (for the separate results for the subscales of math anxiety see the Appendix,

_{M} |
_{10} |
||||

Null model | 0.2 | 0.00 | 0.00 | 1.00 | |

Specialization | 0.2 | 0.83 | 19.59 | >100 | 0.00 |

Specialization + experience | 0.2 | 0.14 | 0.64 | >100 | 0.91 |

Specialization + experience + interaction | 0.2 | 0.03 | 0.13 | 80.23 | 1.30 |

Experience | 0.2 | 0.00 | 0.00 | 0.16 | 0.00 |

Effects | _{incl} |
_{excl} |
|||
---|---|---|---|---|---|

Specialization | 0.4 | 0.97 | >100 | 0.00 | |

Experience | 0.4 | 0.14 | 0.17 | 6.22 | |

Interaction specialization × experience | 0.2 | 0.03 | 0.23 | 4.22 |

To further explore the missing effect of experience on math anxiety, experience level (in years) was considered for female in-service teachers (

Because of the significant effect of specialization on math anxiety, the female teachers were further compared to the reference sample of female students dependent on specialization by independent samples _{10}_{10}_{01}

To further evaluate the math anxiety of teachers and the moderating effect of math specialization, we estimated the distribution of math anxiety in female elementary school teachers in relation to the reference sample of female students. Due to the lack of diagnostic criteria for math anxiety (^{th} percentile; math anxiety > 90^{th} percentile) or being at risk for dyscalculia (cut-off: dyscalculia ≤ 25^{th} percentile; math anxiety > 75^{th} percentile) in relation to normative data (reference sample) (

Percentile | 10% | 25% | 50% | 75% | 90% |
---|---|---|---|---|---|

Teachers | |||||

All | 86.55% | 77.58% | 52.02% | 33.63% | 12.56% |

Math specialization | 80.62% | 72.09% | 43.41% | 24.03% | 4.65% |

No math specialization | 94.68% | 85.11% | 63.83% | 46.81% | 23.40% |

^{th} percentile (10%), lower quarter (25%), median (50%), upper quarter (75%) indicating risk for critical math anxiety, and 90^{th} percentile (90%) indicating critical math anxiety. The given norms depict the AMAS scores that correspond to the percentile based on the distribution of AMAS scores in the reference sample of female German University students (

The relation of math anxiety to enjoyment and ease of teaching math for female teachers was analyzed by Pearson correlations. Significant negative correlations of math anxiety were found for both enjoyment,

To detect the factors that might influence the teaching attitudes of female elementary school teachers, ordinal logistic regressions were performed with the predictors math anxiety, specialization, and experience (for the separate results of German and Belgian teachers see the Appendix, ^{2}_{McF}^{2}_{McF}

Predictor | Reference category | Estimate | Odds Ratio [95% CI] | ||||
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Enjoyment of Teaching Math | |||||||

Math anxiety | −0.12 | 0.02 | −5.51 | < .001 | 0.89 | [0.85, 0.92] | |

Specialization | Yes | 1.17 | 0.32 | 3.70 | < .001 | 3.21 | [1.74, 5.99] |

Experience | In-service | −0.14 | 0.32 | −0.44 | .663 | 0.87 | [0.47, 1.63] |

Ease of Teaching Math | |||||||

Math anxiety | −0.12 | 0.02 | −5.65 | < .001 | 0.88 | [0.85, 0.92] | |

Specialization | Yes | 1.06 | 0.32 | 3.34 | < .001 | 2.90 | [1.56, 5.45] |

Experience | In-service | 0.41 | 0.31 | 1.31 | .189 | 1.51 | [0.82, 2.80] |

To further explore the missing effect of experience, the relation between experience level (in years) and teaching attitudes was analyzed by Pearson correlations for female in-service teachers. Experience level did not significantly correlate with enjoyment of teaching,

The current study investigated math anxiety of elementary school teachers to replicate the higher levels of math anxiety found for teachers as compared to a reference sample, to identify which teachers are affected, and to disclose how math anxiety relates to their teaching attitudes. First, we replicated the finding that elementary school teachers have higher levels of math anxiety than students from other fields (

The current study replicated the finding that female elementary school teachers have a higher level of math anxiety in relation to female students from other fields (

Female teachers who specialized in math essentially differed in math anxiety from female teachers who did not specialize in math. As expected, math anxiety was lower both in German teachers majoring in math compared to those not majoring in math during their studies of elementary school education (

With increased experience in studying elementary school education, the math anxiety of pre-service elementary school teachers was found to decrease in previous studies (

Among elementary school teachers, female teachers were found to express more math anxiety than male teachers. This corroborates gender effects on math anxiety in general (

For elementary school teachers, math anxiety relates to teaching attitudes towards math. Higher levels of math anxiety were associated with lower enjoyment and ease of teaching math. This means that female teachers with increasing levels of math anxiety were less likely to enjoy, and more likely to be afraid of, teaching math, and also found teaching math difficult and considered themselves as being less confident in teaching math. Given that the teaching attitudes were assessed only by single items and after math anxiety and performance in the current study, the results should be treated with considerable caution due to possible biases (e.g., teachers reporting their teaching attitudes more consistently to their math anxiety). Nevertheless, our results were consistent with previous studies showing the relation of math anxiety to confidence (

Like math anxiety, teaching attitudes were found to differ depending on specialization, but not on experience. Female teachers with math specialization considered teaching math more enjoyable and easier than those without this specialization (

There are several implications for educational practice of the presented research on math anxiety of elementary school teachers. Although not all elementary school teachers have high levels of math anxiety, the relatively high levels of math anxiety of teachers without specialization in math are critical, because all teachers—including these teachers—are supposed to teach math in elementary school in the investigated educational systems. So, math anxiety of teachers is a problem in this situation (

Although we believe that this research offers important implications, we acknowledge that the current study has some limitations. First, because most elementary school teachers are female, the current sample of male teachers was too small to be analyzed. Our results based on female teachers cannot be generalized to male teachers because of gender differences and thus future studies with a sufficient number of male elementary school teachers might focus on this issue. Second, the observational approach of this study does not allow for causal inferences. For instance, it is not clear whether math-anxious students just do not specialize in math to avoid it (

In conclusion, this replication study confirmed the fact that elementary school teachers are more affected by math anxiety as compared to students from other fields. However, not all teachers were found to have higher levels of math anxiety. For instance, female teachers without specialization in math had more math anxiety and less positive teaching attitudes than female teachers with specialization in math. In fact, almost half of these teachers could be classified as at risk for critical math anxiety, and almost a quarter as critically math anxious. Importantly, all elementary school teachers in these educational systems are obliged to teach math. Since teachers with high math anxiety might impact the math achievement of their students, this may pose a substantial problem for math education. Therefore, our work stresses the need for changes in teacher education to support elementary school teachers who did not specialize in math to cope with their anxiety not only for their own well-being, but also to prevent negative consequences on the emotions, attitudes, and future achievements of their students.

Raw data, analysis scripts, and material can be found at the Open Science Framework (for access see

We would like to thank Anita Kaiser, Joachim Engel, Stefan Smaczny, Laura Gottwald, and Ida Johanna M. L. C. von Lehsten for data collection, Maximilian Kenzo Molitor for support in figures and Zoë Kirste for language proofreading of the manuscript.

CA, KC, and HCN are members of the LEAD Graduate School & Research Network [GSC1028], and NM was supported by a fellowship of Teach@Tuebingen, both of which are funded within the framework of the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments. NM was further funded by grants from the National Research Fund of Luxembourg (FNR, Luxembourg) [FNR-INTER/FNRS/17/1178524] and from the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FRS-FNRS, Belgium) [PDR-T.0047.18].

Group | |||||
---|---|---|---|---|---|

Math Anxiety | |||||

Teachers | |||||

Yes | 35 | 15.54 | 5.29 | ||

No | 251 | 16.6 | 6.79 | ||

Math Anxiety of Teachers | |||||

Specialization | |||||

Yes | Experience | Pre-service | 20 | 15.15 | 5.28 |

In-service | 4 | 15.50 | 4.20 | ||

No | Experience | Pre-service | 7 | 16.29 | 5.59 |

In-service | 4 | 16.25 | 7.54 | ||

Enjoyment of Teaching Math^{a} |
|||||

Specialization | |||||

Yes | 21 | 4.33 | 0.48 | ||

No | 10 | 4.1 | 0.74 | ||

Experience | |||||

Pre-service | 23 | 4.26 | 0.54 | ||

In-service | 8 | 4.25 | 0.71 | ||

Ease of Teaching Math^{a} |
|||||

Specialization | |||||

Yes | 21 | 4.19 | 0.68 | ||

No | 10 | 3.6 | 0.97 | ||

Experience | |||||

Pre-service | 23 | 4.13 | 0.76 | ||

In-service | 8 | 3.63 | 0.92 |

^{a}

Group | _{10} |
_{01} |
||||||||
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Math Anxiety | ||||||||||

Learning Math Anxiety | ||||||||||

Teachers (Female) | Yes | 223 | 8.48 | 3.67 | 3.04 | 818 | .002 | 0.24 | 7.75 | |

No | 597 | 7.68 | 3.26 | |||||||

Math Evaluation Anxiety | ||||||||||

Teachers (Female) | Yes | 223 | 12.37 | 4.42 | 1.24 | 818 | .214 | 0.10 | 0.19 | 5.36 |

No | 597 | 11.98 | 3.93 | |||||||

Math Anxiety of Teachers | ||||||||||

Learning math anxiety | ||||||||||

Gender | Female | 223 | 8.48 | 3.67 | 2.90 | 256 | .004 | 0.53 | 8.41 | |

Male | 35 | 6.63 | 2.22 | |||||||

Math evaluation anxiety | ||||||||||

Gender | Female | 223 | 12.37 | 4.42 | 4.40 | 256 | < .001 | 0.80 | > 100 | |

Male | 35 | 8.91 | 3.60 |

_{10}_{01}_{10}_{01}_{10}

Group | Learning Math Anxiety | Math Evaluation Anxiety | ||||||||
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Descriptives | ||||||||||

Specialization | ||||||||||

Yes | 129 | 7.55 | 2.96 | 129 | 11.48 | 4.37 | ||||

No | 94 | 9.76 | 4.16 | 94 | 13.60 | 4.22 | ||||

Experience | ||||||||||

Pre-service | 163 | 8.39 | 3.60 | 163 | 12.49 | 4.51 | ||||

In-service | 60 | 8.72 | 3.88 | 60 | 12.07 | 4.21 | ||||

ANOVA | ||||||||||

Specialization | 18.11 | 1, 219 | < .001 | 0.08 | 9.38 | 1, 219 | .002 | 0.04 | ||

Experience | 0.96 | 1, 219 | .328 | 0.00 | 0.17 | 1, 219 | .678 | 0.00 | ||

Interaction specialization × experience | 0.13 | 1, 219 | .718 | 0.00 | 0.12 | 1, 219 | .902 | 0.00 | ||

Bayesian ANOVA: Models | _{M} |
_{10} |
_{M} |
_{10} |
||||||

Null model | 0.2 | 0.00 | 0.00 | 1.00 | 0.2 | 0.01 | 0.05 | 1.00 | ||

Specialization | 0.2 | 0.78 | 13.83 | > 100 | 0.00 | 0.2 | 0.81 | 16.77 | 62.23 | 0.00 |

Specialization + experience | 0.2 | 0.18 | 0.89 | > 100 | 1.80 | 0.2 | 0.14 | 0.67 | 11.08 | 0.94 |

Specialization + experience + interaction | 0.2 | 0.04 | 0.18 | > 100 | 1.97 | 0.2 | 0.03 | 0.14 | 2.57 | 1.34 |

Experience | 0.2 | 0.00 | 0.00 | 0.19 | 0.00 | 0.2 | 0.00 | 0.01 | 0.20 | 0.00 |

Bayesian ANOVA: Effects | _{incl} |
_{excl} |
_{incl} |
_{excl} |
||||||

Specialization | 0.4 | 0.96 | > 100 | 0.00 | 0.4 | 0.95 | 61.30 | 0.02 | ||

Experience | 0.4 | 0.18 | 0.23 | 3.95 | 0.4 | 0.15 | 0.18 | 5.60 | ||

Interaction specialization × experience | 0.2 | 0.04 | 0.23 | 4.18 | 0.2 | 0.03 | 0.23 | 4.32 |

Group | German Teachers (Female) | Belgian Teachers (Female) | ||||||||
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Descriptives | ||||||||||

Specialization | ||||||||||

Yes | 64 | 18.59 | 5.86 | 65 | 19.46 | 7.19 | ||||

No | 52 | 23.21 | 6.88 | 42 | 23.52 | 8.18 | ||||

Experience | ||||||||||

Pre-service | 92 | 20.73 | 6.81 | 71 | 21.07 | 7.73 | ||||

In-service | 24 | 20.42 | 6.47 | 36 | 21.03 | 8.09 | ||||

ANOVA | ||||||||||

Specialization | 10.66 | 1, 112 | .001 | 0.09 | 6.20 | 1, 103 | .014 | 0.06 | ||

Experience | 0.02 | 1, 112 | .886 | 0.00 | 0.01 | 1, 103 | .939 | 0.00 | ||

Interaction specialization × experience | 0.10 | 1, 112 | .756 | 0.00 | 0.00 | 1, 103 | .949 | 0.00 | ||

Bayesian ANOVA: Models | _{M} |
_{10} |
_{M} |
_{10} |
||||||

Null model | 0.2 | 0.01 | 0.02 | 1.00 | 0.2 | 0.13 | 0.59 | 1.00 | ||

Specialization | 0.2 | 0.76 | 12.50 | > 100 | 0.00 | 0.2 | 0.66 | 7.67 | 5.09 | 0.00 |

Specialization + experience | 0.2 | 0.18 | 0.87 | 33.88 | 0.87 | 0.2 | 0.14 | 0.65 | 1.08 | 1.65 |

Specialization + experience + interaction | 0.2 | 0.06 | 0.24 | 10.72 | 1.19 | 0.2 | 0.05 | 0.19 | 0.36 | 12.92 |

Experience | 0.2 | 0.00 | 0.01 | 0.24 | 0.02 | 0.2 | 0.03 | 0.11 | 0.22 | 0.03 |

Bayesian ANOVA: Effects | _{incl} |
_{excl} |
_{incl} |
_{excl} |
||||||

Specialization | 0.4 | 0.94 | > 100 | 0.01 | 0.4 | 0.80 | 5.08 | 0.20 | ||

Experience | 0.4 | 0.18 | 0.24 | 4.23 | 0.4 | 0.17 | 0.21 | 4.70 | ||

Interaction specialization × experience | 0.2 | 0.06 | 0.32 | 3.16 | 0.2 | 0.05 | 0.33 | 3.01 |

Predictor | German Teachers (Female) | Belgian Teachers (Female) | |||||||||||
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Enjoyment of Teaching Math | |||||||||||||

Math anxiety | −0.12 | 0.04 | −2.92 | .004 | 0.89 | [0.82, 0.96] | −0.13 | 0.03 | −4.61 | < .001 | 0.88 | [0.83, 0.93] | |

Specialization | Yes vs. no | 1.38 | 0.53 | 2.59 | .010 | 3.96 | [1.41, 11.50] | 1.01 | 0.40 | 2.55 | .011 | 2.75 | [1.27, 6.05] |

Experience | In- vs. pre-service | −0.40 | 0.52 | −0.77 | .441 | 0.67 | [0.24, 1.90] | 0.06 | 0.40 | 0.14 | .890 | 1.06 | [0.48, 2.35] |

Ease of Teaching Math | |||||||||||||

Math anxiety | −0.13 | 0.04 | −3.46 | < .001 | 0.88 | [0.81, 0.94] | −0.12 | 0.03 | −4.56 | < .001 | 0.88 | [0.84, 0.93] | |

Specialization | Yes vs. no | 1.42 | 0.52 | 2.71 | .007 | 4.14 | [1.51, 11.93] | 0.85 | 0.40 | 2.10 | .036 | 2.33 | [1.06, 5.19] |

Experience | In- vs. pre-service | −0.22 | 0.51 | −0.43 | .667 | 0.80 | [0.29, 2.19] | 0.77 | 0.40 | 1.91 | .056 | 2.16 | [0.99, 4.82] |

^{2}_{McF}^{2}_{McF}^{2}_{McF}^{2}_{McF}

Krzysztof Cipora is one of the Guest Editors of this Special Issue but played no editorial role in this particular article or intervened in any form in the peer review process.