Date of Award

Summer 8-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Center for Science and Math Education


Center for Science and Math Education

Committee Chair

Sherry S. Herron

Committee Chair Department

Center for Science and Math Education

Committee Member 2

Thomas J. Lipscomb

Committee Member 2 Department

Educational Research and Administration

Committee Member 3

John M. Harris

Committee Member 3 Department


Committee Member 4

Thomas A. DeVaney


This study addressed how different instructional strategies affected preservice elementary teachers’ levels of math anxiety and their achievement in a math content course while considering descriptions of their experiences in the course in relation to their math anxiety and achievement. The instructional strategies used were traditional teaching methods and inquiry-based learning (IBL). A mixed methods embedded design was used in which the major design of the study is a nonequivalent control group design, where the collection of data occurred before, during, and after the intervention. There were 103 participants who were elementary education preservice teachers with 58 of them being enrolled in traditional teaching sections of the course and 45 being enrolled in IBL sections. Participants completed the Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale – Short Version (MARS-S) at the beginning and end of the course to measure their level of math anxiety. They also completed a 20-item content knowledge assessment to measure their level of achievement pre- and post-intervention. Participants’ journal entries throughout the semester contained self-reported measures of math anxiety and understanding of course content as well as descriptions of their experiences in the course regarding their anxiety and understanding. Statistical tests, including two-way repeated measures ANOVA and t-tests, were performed to test for differences within and between the traditional and IBL groups. Significant results showed that as the semester progressed, the math anxiety of IBL participants decreased, whereas the math anxiety of traditional participants increased. Differences between the groups in terms of their level of achievement were not significant even though within both groups, participants experienced significant learning gains. By the end of the semester, statistical tests revealed that the IBL participants had significantly more positive opinions on their classroom experiences and preferences in mathematics classrooms. Correlational analysis was performed that showed a significant negative relationship between math anxiety and achievement. Random samples of each journal entry were selected, and thematic analysis was performed. The common themes that were identified as impacting participants’ anxiety and understanding of course material included course content, teaching methods, assessment, and student behaviors.