Promoting Math Teachers’ Confidence and SelfPerceptions of Efficacy with Educational Technology 
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Friday, December 4, 12:45–1:30 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)
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Audience:  Coaches, Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty 
Attendee devices:  Devices not needed 
Topic:  Teacher education 
Grade level:  PK2 
Subject area:  Math 
ISTE Standards:  For Educators: Learner
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Over the past decade, much research has exemplified the importance of early math learning for students’ longterm 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, & DavisKean, 2014; Watts, Duncan, Clements & Sarama, 2018). Moreover, Ritchie & Bates (2013) found that math and reading achievement at age 7 predicted socioeconomic 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, StevensonBoyd 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 secondgrade 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 developmentallyappropriate 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 UserZoom.com, 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 4point 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). Fortyseven 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 nonreligious, charter, and public). Sixtynine percent of teachers said they teach at a public school while 31 percent said they taught at nonpublic (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 ttests. 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 ttest 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 selfefficacy. 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’ selfefficacy (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 selfreporting via survey, though we suspect this bias was minimized given we asked teachers about their selfperceptions 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.
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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 2year 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 peerreviewed 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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