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Content: The Fennema-Sherman Attitude Scales

In the 1970s, two researchers at the University of Wisconsin (Fennema and Sherman) constructed a set of scales to measure attitudes towards mathematics. You will be taking shortened versions of two of these scales: confidence in math and math anxiety.

For each of the two scales, circle the letter indicating how much you agree or disagree with each statement. The only “correct answer” is the answer that best describes how you actually feel. Be sure to answer each item and try to work quickly rather than spending too much time thinking about any item. If you can’t decide whether you agree or disagree with a statement, circle “C”. At the end, you will be given instructions on how to score your responses.

Part I

A= strongly agree      B = agree      C = neutral      D = disagree      E = strongly disagree

1 I am sure that I can learn math. A B C D E
2 I am sure of myself when I do math. A B C D E
3 I know I can do well in math. A B C D E
4 I am sure I could do advanced work in math. A B C D E
5 I think I could handle more difficult math. A B C D E
6 Most subjects I can handle OK, but I just can’t do a good job with math. A B C D E
7 I’m not the type to do well in math. A B C D E
8 Math has been my worst subject. A B C D E
9 Math is hard for me. A B C D E
10 I’m no good in math. A B C D E

To score Part I, total up your points for the 10 items based on the following two rules:

For Items 1-5,   A = 5

B = 4

   C = 3

   D = 2

   E = 1

For Items 6-10,   A = 1

B = 2

   C = 3

   D = 4

   E = 5

Part II

A= strongly agree      B = agree      C = neutral      D = disagree      E = strongly disagree

1 It wouldn’t bother me at all to take more math courses. A B C D E
2 I have usually been at ease during math tests. A B C D E
3 I usually don’t worry about my ability to solve math problems. A B C D E
4 I almost never get uptight while taking math tests. A B C D E
5 I have usually been at ease in math courses. A B C D E
6 I get really uptight during math tests. A B C D E
7 I get a sinking feeling when I think of trying hard math problems. A B C D E
8 My mind goes blank and I am unable to think clearly when working mathematics. A B C D E
9 Mathematics makes me feel uncomfortable and nervous. A B C D E
10 Mathematics makes me feel uneasy and confused. A B C D E

To score Part II, total up your points for the 10 items based on the following two rules:

For Items 1-5,   A = 5

B = 4

   C = 3

   D = 2

   E = 1

For Items 6-10,   A = 1

B = 2

   C = 3

   D = 4

   E = 5

There is no one specific interpretation for a score, but a score of 30 is “neutral.” The higher your score is above 30, the less anxiety you appear to have towards math, and the lower your score is below 30, the more anxiety you appear to have towards math. If you score between 10 and 20, you might want to take action to reduce your math anxiety so that it doesn’t interfere when helping students with math. http://www.radford.edu/content/LARC/home/learning-guides/math/math-anxiety.html) 

It is important to note the role of you – an adult in the classroom – and how students feel about math and perform in math. For example, in a study by Beilock and colleagues (2010), they learned that the math anxiety of female teachers impacted the math performance of female students in the classroom.

With many conversations about possible math differences between males and females, you don’t want to be one of the reasons that female students (or male students) experience difficulty with math or say they don’t like math! As noted by Ramirez et al. (2018), “the way teachers feel in the classroom and the indirect messages they convey through their practice may be an important factor shaping student math learning” (p. 10).  

For some suggestions on reducing your math anxiety, see this site: http://www.radford.edu/content/LARC/home/learning-guides/math/math-anxiety.html. You might also be interested in this article that has suggestions for ways for adults to address their math anxiety. 

 TAKE NOTES:

First complete the scale; then use the questions below as a basis for reflecting on your attitudes toward and experiences with math. If you are completing this activity as part of a workshop or class, your instructor might ask you to share your answers in a group discussion. 

  • Why do you think you got the score you did?
  • Did you feel you had more or less math anxiety before working through the items on the scale? 
  • How can you use information about your attitude toward math to help the students with whom you currently work or with whom you might work in the future? 
  •  What steps are three steps might you take to improve your attitude toward math? 

References 

Beilock, S. L., Gunderson, E. A., Ramirez, G., & Levine, S. C. (2010). Female teachers’ math anxiety affects girls’ math achievement. PNAS, 107(5), 1860-1863. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0910967107 

Fennema, E., & Sherman, J. A. (1976). Fennema-Sherman mathematics attitudes scales: Instruments designed to measure attitudes toward the learning of mathematics by females and males. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 7(5) 324-326. https://doi.org/10.2307/748467 

Ramirez, G., Hooper, S. Y., Kersting, N. B., Ferguson, R., & Yeager, D. (2018). Teacher math anxiety relates to adolescent students’ math achievement. AERA Open, 4(1), 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1177.2332858418756052 

Module: Helping Students Do Math

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