D. Filippatou, E. Pantazi, T. Triandafillidis

University of Thessaly (GREECE)
In the last decades research has focused on understanding the role of affect, i.e. mood and emotion, in education. More specifically, in past research emphasis has been given on achievement emotions related mainly to the success and failure outcomes of achievement activities such as pride, anxiety, or shame (see Weiner, 1985; Zeidner, 2007). Math anxiety as experienced by school age children has captured many scholars’ attention because of its negative impact both on mathematical performance and consequent confidence to learn mathematics (Jansen, Louwerse, Straatemeier, Van der Ven, Klinkenberg, & Van der Maas, 2013). Math anxiety is a multi-dimensional construct associated both with internal and external factors [e.g. lack of confidence when working in mathematical situations (Stuart, 2000) or inappropriate methods of teaching mathematical skills (Aren, 2003, Furner & Duffy, 2002, Geist, 2010)]. Research concerning the relationship of experiential teaching in mathematics using manipulatives with math anxiety in school age children is limited.

The aim of the present study was to investigate whether teaching mathematics with the use of manipulatives may help Grade 5 elementary school pupils reduce math stress and hence whether this teaching approach may contribute to a better understanding of fraction concepts as well as to creating positive feelings about mathematics. A quasi-experimental design pre and post was used with two groups of eleven-year children (N=48), one experimental (N=24) and one control (N=24). Before intervention, both groups had same level of math knowledge of fractions. An Educational Programme using manipulatives was implemented in the experimental group for 12 teaching hours while the control group followed traditional teaching.

In both groups, before and after teaching, research materials included:
(a) informal math achievement test,
(b) the anxiety rating scale for mathematics (MASC), and
(c) semi-structured pupil interviews exploring misunderstanding of fractions and their feelings about mathematics.

Also, during the implementation phase of the programme in the experimental group observations were carried out both by the researcher/class teacher and a non-participant observer.

Results indicated that Grade 5 elementary school pupils exhibited high test anxiety in mathematics before intervention. There was statistically significant reduction of test anxiety as well as of total math anxiety after intervention. Achievement tests and error analysis showed that after intervention pupils had statistically significant improvement of their understanding of fractions. Data from pupil interviews and class observations indicated that pupils had improved their attitude towards mathematics and increased self-confidence in math activities. Implications of this research on effective math teaching methods and psycho-emotional factors are discussed.