Development of children’s math attitudes: Gender differences, key socializers, and intervention approaches.

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Developmental Review

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Levine, S.C. & Pantoja, N. (2021). Development of children’s math attitudes:  Gender differences, key socializers, and intervention approaches. Developmental Review.


The relation of various math attitudes to math achievement has been extensively studied in adolescents and adults. Recently, researchers have begun to examine the math attitude-math achievement relation in young children. We review theories and research on four attitudes relevant to early math learning—math anxiety, math self-concept, mindset, and math-gender stereotype. These attitudes emerge and are related to math achievement by early elementary school. Our review suggests that early math achievement plays an important role in the initial development of either positive or negative math attitudes, which in turn, may initiate a vicious or virtuous cycle that can enhance or undermine math learning. Additionally, gender differences in math attitudes (favoring boys) emerge by early to mid-elementary school. An important future direction involves understanding how early attitudes about math relate to each other, and whether certain constellations of attitudes are prevalent. We also consider three types of math attitudes that key socializers—parents and teachers—hold: general (math-gender stereotypes and mindsets), self-relevant (math anxiety), and child-specific (expectations and value of math for their child or student). Our review highlights a link between key socializers’ math attitudes and associated behaviors, and their children’s math attitudes and math achievement. Based on these findings, we propose the Early Math Achievement-Attitude model (EMAA). An important future direction involves increasing our understanding of how key socializers with different math attitude constellations engage with children around math. Finally, based on our review of these topics as well as intervention studies, we discuss intervention approaches that hold promise for improving young children’s math achievement and math attitudes.