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Promoting Math Teachers’ Confidence and Self-Perceptions of Efficacy with Educational Technology

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Research paper
Lecture presentation

Friday, December 4, 12:45–1:30 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)
Presentation 2 of 3
Other presentations:
Motivating STEM+C Learning With Social Impact of Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics
Integrating Science, Computational Thinking, and Data Science for Middle School Science Classrooms

Dr. Meagan Rothschild  
Dr. Kelly Sheehan  

This session describes findings from a national survey of 600 PK-3 math teachers around technology use; 75% of teachers used technology for teaching math. Teachers who used technology felt more confident than those who did not, and using technology was positively related to self-efficacy perceptions.

Audience: Coaches, Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Topic: Teacher education
Grade level: PK-2
Subject area: Math
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences.
For Education Leaders:
Empowering Leader
  • Support educators in using technology to advance learning that meets the diverse learning, cultural, and social-emotional needs of individual students.
Additional detail: Session recorded for video-on-demand
Influencer Disclosure: This session includes a presenter that indicated a “material connection” to a brand that includes a personal, family or employment relationship, or a financial relationship. See individual speaker menu for disclosure information.

Proposal summary


Over the past decade, much research has exemplified the importance of early math learning for students’ long-term success in math. For example, Claessens, Duncan, and Engel (2009) sampled over 20,000 kindergarteners and found that math learning in kindergarten is the strongest predictor of student achievement in reading and math in 5th grade. Longitudinal research also shows that children’s math learning in preschool predicts their math success in high school (Duncan et al., 2007; Nguyen et al., 2016; Watts, Duncan, Siegler, & Davis-Kean, 2014; Watts, Duncan, Clements & Sarama, 2018). Moreover, Ritchie & Bates (2013) found that math and reading achievement at age 7 predicted socio-economic status (SES) at age 42 when statistically controlling for SES at birth and intelligence. In sum, math learning in the preschool and elementary years is critical to students’ later success in math and beyond.

Despite the importance of early math learning, early educators often lack confidence around their math skills, which can influence their math instruction. Considering preschool, Chen, McCray, Adams, and Leow (2014) surveyed preschool teachers and found that while teachers felt confident in their teaching of math, they felt less confident in their own math abilities and their ability to assess early math knowledge. This research aligns with Brenneman, Stevenson-Boyd and Frede’s (2009) policy statement which notes that preschool teachers tend to support math learning less than other subject areas. Other research has shown that teachers experiencing extreme feelings of discomfort around math, or math anxiety, can affect their students’ learning outcomes (e.g., Beilock, Gunderson, Ramirez, & Levine, 2010; Geist, 2010; Maloney & Beilock, 2012; Ramirez, Gunderson, Levine, & Beilock, 2013). Beilock, Gunderson, Ramirez, and Levine (2010) found that first- and second-grade teachers’ math anxiety predicted lower math achievement for female students at the end of the school year. Additionally, Geist (2015) found that Head Start teachers who were higher in math anxiety reported feeling less confident about their own math ability and planned fewer math lessons in their classroom. Therefore, some early educators may feel discomfort around their own math abilities, which can affect their teaching of math and student opportunities to learn. Notably, the amount of teacher math talk in early education classrooms is related to growth of student math knowledge, suggesting that even small variations in math engagement as a result of teacher discomfort can affect student learning (Klibanoff, Levine, Hutterlocher, Vasilyeva & Hedges, 2006).

The prevalence of educational technology in early education classrooms creates an opportunity for technology to support educators’ teaching and student learning of math (Vega & Robb, 2019). A recent report shows that 78% of early educators with access to a computer or tablet use it for one or more pedagogical purposes, like playing videos or for student practice of learning material (Pila, Blackwell, Lauricella, & Wartella, 2019). Moreover, over 80% of these teachers said they feel confident in using technology during instruction in developmentally-appropriate ways. Given the widespread use and confidence around implementing technology in the classroom, early educators who experience discomfort or anxiety around math can use educational technology such as online videos, teacher dashboards, or digital apps/games to support their teaching and potentially increase their teaching efficacy.


To begin to investigate the impact of educational technology on early math learning in the classroom, we surveyed 600 early math educators with the goal of understanding their use of technology in the classroom and their perceived teaching efficacy. Math teachers of preschool to 3rd grade students completed an online survey about their attitudes toward math and their use of technology in their classroom. Teachers were recruited using a panel vendor that samples participants from across the United States. We screened teacher participants to ensure that we collected roughly 100 teachers for each grade. We obtained informed consented from all study participants (Solutions IRB: IORG0007116).

Participants completed the survey online via, which took approximately 20 minutes to complete and consisted of multiple choice, ranking, and open response questions. A researcher reviewed participants’ responses and excluded participants based on the quality of their responses (e.g., repetitive or nonsensical responses). All responses were anonymous and participants received a small incentive for their participation.

We asked teachers a variety of questions about the experiences teaching, as well as demographic information:
• Use of Technology in Classroom. Teachers were asked, “Do you use or have you ever used any apps or web pages to support student learning of math?” Teachers responded yes (75%) or no (25%).
• Teacher Confidence. Teachers were asked, “How confident are you that you have the tools, resources, and knowledge that you need to effectively teach math to your students?” Teachers responded on a scale of 1, not at all confident to 4, extremely confident (M=3.44, SD=.60).
• Teaching Efficacy. To measure perceptions of teachers’ teaching efficacy, we asked teachers, “How confident are you that your teaching is meeting the learning needs of all your students?” Teachers responded on a 4-point scale, with 1 indicating “Not at all confident” to 5 indicating “extremely confident” (M=3.40, SD=.56).
• Teacher Preparation. We gauged teacher perceptions of their preparation to teach math as we hypothesized it would be related to their confidence and perceptions of teaching efficacy. We asked teachers “How much do you feel your teacher education program prepared you for teaching math in your classroom?” Teachers responded on a scale of 1, totally did not prepare me to 5, totally prepared me (M=3.74, SD=.99).
• Teacher Demographics. Teachers indicated the number of years they have been teaching (i.e., teaching tenure; less than 2 years to more than 10 years) and their gender (male, female, prefer not to answer, and other). Forty-seven percent of teachers had taught for less than 8 years and 53 percent had taught for 8 years or more. Thirty percent of teachers identified as male and 70 percent identified as female. Three participants identified their genders as other/prefer not to answer and were excluded from the analysis. We included these factors in the survey because they may be related to confidence and teachers’ perceptions of their teaching efficacy (e.g., Klassen & Chiu, 2010; Beilock, Gunderson, Ramirez, & Levine, 2010)
• School Type. Teachers indicated the type of school they taught at (private religious, private non-religious, charter, and public). Sixty-nine percent of teachers said they teach at a public school while 31 percent said they taught at non-public (i.e., private or charter) school. As with teacher demographics, these factors were included because school type may be related to confidence and teachers’ perceptions of their teaching efficacy (e.g., Lee & Ginsburg, 2007).

To analyze the results, we first generated descriptive statistic reports. We investigated differences in confidence by technology use using independent samples t-tests. Lastly, to explore the relation between technology use and perceptions of teaching efficacy, we used multiple linear regression. This allowed us to statistically control for teacher gender, school type, teaching tenure, and teacher preparation.


To understand whether there were differences in teacher confidence based on technology use, we ran an independent samples t-test comparing confidence ratings between teachers who said they have used websites or apps in their classroom and those who said they have never used websites or apps in their classroom. There was a significant difference in confidence scores, with teachers who said they used technology in their classroom reporting higher confidence that they had the tools, resources, and knowledge needed to teach math effectively (M=3.5, SD=.58) compared to teachers who said they had never used technology in their classroom (M=3.3, SD=.64), t(598)= -2.50, p<.05, partial η2 =.01.

We used multiple linear regression to understand the relationship between technology use in the classroom on teachers’ perceived teaching efficacy. We entered technology use and teaching efficacy into the model along with teacher preparation, teacher gender, teaching tenure, and type of school, as we hypothesized these factors may be related to teacher’s perceived teaching efficacy and we wanted to statistically control for their effect. The regression was significant, R=.43, adjusted R2=.18, F(5, 596)=26.65, p<.001. Using technology in their classroom (B=.10), feeling more like their teacher preparation program prepared them (B=.21), and being a male teacher (B=.10) were significant positive predictors of teachers’ perceptions of their efficacy, ps<.05. Teaching at a public school was a significant negative predictor or perceptions of teaching efficacy (B=-.11, p<.05). Teaching tenure was not a significant predictor of perceived teaching efficacy, p>.05.


This research adds to the scientific literature on educational technology in the classroom and early math teachers' confidence and self-efficacy. Given that discomfort around math can affect instruction in early education classrooms, this research was aimed at understanding the role of educational technology as a support tool for early educators. We found that math teachers who reported that they have used technology in their classroom reported more confidence that they had the tools, resources, and knowledge needed to effectively teach math. Moreover, we found that technology use was a significant predictor of teachers’ perceptions of their teaching efficacy, even when accounting for teacher preparation, gender, and school type. In other words, math teachers who used technology to support student learning were significantly more likely to feel like their teaching was meeting the needs of all their students.

The motivation for this research was to begin to understand the impact of educational technology on math teacher’s confidence and teaching efficacy, especially given that many math teachers are female and likely experience some degree of math anxiety (e.g., Beilock, Gunderson, Ramirez, & Levine, 2010). In fact, we found that female teachers felt their teaching was less effective compared to male teachers. This finding matches previous research on gender differences in math teachers’ self-efficacy (e.g., Klassen & Chiu, 2010; Relich, 1996) and emphasizes the need to support female math teachers. We also found that teaching at a public school was related to worse perceptions of teaching efficacy, as we had predicted (Lee & Ginsburg, 2007). The emergence of gender and school type as significant predictors of perceptions of teaching efficacy highlights the importance of understanding how we can further support math teachers with educational technology and beyond.

Despite the significance of our findings, they are not without limitations. First, there is always potential bias when self-reporting via survey, though we suspect this bias was minimized given we asked teachers about their self-perceptions of efficacy and confidence. Second, our results are not causal and therefore leave open the question of how educational technology use affects math teachers’ confidence and perceptions of efficacy. For example, teachers may be using educational technology to support their own teaching (teacher dashboards, YouTube videos) or they may be using educational technology products to engage students with games, activities, or lessons. Given that some educational technology products can adapt to student learning trajectories, it would be interesting to see if teachers who use them feel like they are better meeting their students’ needs. It is necessary for future research to better understand the nature of this relationship so that educational technology can be better utilized to support math learning. With more research, teachers’ use of educational technology has the potential to reduce math anxiety, support instruction, and improve early math learning.


Beilock, S. L., Gunderson, E. A., Ramirez, G., & Levine, S. C. (2010). Female teachers’ math  anxiety affects girls’ math achievement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107, 1860–1863.

Brenneman, K., Stevenson-Boyd, J., & Frede, E. C. (2009). Math and science in preschool: Policies and practice. Preschool Policy Brief, 19, 1-12. Retrieved from

Chen, J. Q., & McCray, J. (2013). A survey study of early childhood teachers’ beliefs and confidence about teaching early math. (Early Math Collaborative Working Paper No. 2013-2). Retrieved from the Erikson Institute Early Math Collaborative website:

Chen, J., McCray, J., Adams, A., & Leow, C. (2014). A survey study of early childhood teachers’ beliefs and confidence about teaching early math. Early Childhood Education Journal, 42, 367-377. doi:10.1007/s10643-013-0619-0

Claessens, A., Duncan, G., & Engel, M. (2009). Kindergarten skills and fifth-grade achievement: Evidence from the ECLS-K. Economics of Education Review, 28, 415–427. doi:10.1016/j.econedurev.2008.09.003

Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., & Japel, C. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1428–1446. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.43.6.1428

Geist, E. (2015). Math anxiety and the “math gap”: How attitudes toward mathematics disadvantages students as early as preschool. Education, 135(3), 328-336. Retrieved from

Klassen, R. M., & Chiu, M. M. (2010). Effects on teachers’ self-efficacy and job satisfaction:  Teacher gender, years of experience, and job stress. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 741–756. doi:10.1037/ a0019237

Klibanoff, R. S., Levine, S. C., Huttenlocher, J., Vasilyeva, M., & Hedges, L. V. (2006). Preschool children's mathematical knowledge: The effect of teacher" math talk". Developmental Psychology, 42(1), 59-69. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.42.1.59

Lee, J. S., & Ginsburg, H. P. (2007). Preschool teachers’ beliefs about appropriate early literacy and mathematics education for low- and middle-SES children. Early Education & Development, 18(1), 111-143. doi:10.1080/10409280701274758

Maloney, E. A., & Beilock, S. L. (2012). Math anxiety: Who has it, why it develops, and how to guard against it. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16(8), 404-406. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2012.06.008

Nguyen, T., Watts, T. W., Duncan, G. J., Clements, D. H., Sarama, J. S., Wolfe, C., & Spitler, M. E. (2016). Which preschool mathematics competencies are most predictive of fifth grade achievement? Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 36, 550-560. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2016.02.003

Pila, S., Blackwell, C. K., Lauricella, A. R., & Wartella, E. (2019). Technology in the Lives of Educators and Early Childhood Programs: 2018 Survey. Retrieved from Northwestern University Website:

Ramirez, G., Gunderson, E. A., Levine, S. C., & Beilock, S. L. (2013). Math anxiety, working memory, and math achievement in early elementary school. Journal of Cognition and Development, 14(2), 187-202. doi:10.1080/15248372.2012.664593

Relich, J. (1996). Gender, self-concept and teachers of mathematics: Effects on attitudes to  teaching and learning. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 30, 179–195.  doi:10.1007/BF00302629.

Ritchie, S. J., & Bates, T. C. (2013). Enduring links from childhood mathematics and reading achievement to adult socioeconomic status. Psychological Science. 24(7). 1301-1308. doi:10.1177/0956797612466268

Vega, V., & Robb, M. B. (2019). The common sense census: Inside the 21st century classroom. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Watts, T. W., Duncan, G. J., Clements, D. H., & Sarama, J. (2018). What is the long‐run impact of learning mathematics during preschool? Child Development, 89(2), 539-555. doi:10.1111/cdev.12713

Watts, T. W., Duncan, G. J., Siegler, R. S., & Davis-Kean, P. E. (2014). What’s past is prologue: Relations between early mathematics knowledge and high school achievement. Educational Researcher, 43, 352–360. doi:10.3102/0013189x14553660

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Dr. Kelly Sheehan, Age of Learning, Inc.

Kelly is a Senior User Researcher at educational technology company, Age of Learning. She received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University in Cognitive Psychology and then completed a 2-year Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Center on Media and Human Development. Her research centered on how children learn STEM concepts from media, like learning to code. Kelly has published in peer-reviewed journals like Computers & Education, Frontiers in Developmental Psychology, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, and the Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology.

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