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Math Confidence March 13, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Lifelong Learning, Students.
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Mathematics   Congratulations to Linda Griffin who is now living in Oregon and today became the newest holder of a doctorate in Educational Leadership. Today was the day of her dissertation defense and I was honored to sit on her team. Her dissertation was based on work that she did while she was a teacher in the Catalina Foothills School District and dealt primarily with what is known as the confidence gap that students sometimes experience in certain difficult subject matters.In Linda’s case, the subject was mathematics and technology for girls in the eighth grade. At the heart of her dissertation was the idea that sometimes, during middle school, girls lose confidence in their skills at doing mathematics. This confidence gap occurs even though the girls are not showing a lack of subject competence.

Linda was the able to analyze the influence and impact of a program designed to bolster the confidence of girls taking mathematics and learning how to program computers. Although the results of this particular study with this particular population in this particular program were not statistically significant, there was enough potential in the methodology to warrant further study.

As the dissertation team members posed questions of Linda, it slowly dawned on me that students who are well trained in the basics of mathematics and for whom basic arithmetic is almost automatic would have much greater confidence and a greater sense of self-efficacy than students who lacked automaticity of their basic skills.

Even more important than this, I watch my own daughter who dreams of being an engineer and wants to work on spacecraft or in the field of astronomy and I worry that the broad board of confidence she treads upon today will become increasingly narrower as she progresses through school. I want so much for her not to fall off and lose interest in math, or worse, come to believe that she cannot do mathematics.

I believe that as a parent I can do more than simply stand on the sidelines and wait to catch her if she falls.

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