Contextualizing Math-Related Strengths and Math Achievement: Positive Math Orientations, Social Supports and the Moderating Effects of Prior Math Knowledge

Abstract

Ongoing policy discussions emphasize the need for more STEM professionals to keep the United States internationally competitive in scientific fields and industry. From a K-16 perspective, it is important to note that students’ trajectories into STEM professions are often shaped by their high school experiences—especially in mathematics. Accordingly, this study employs a strength-based framework to examine students’ high school math achievement with an emphasis on the role of their math-related personal and social strengths. This research uses data from the NCES High School Longitudinal Study, a large-scale national study that emphasizes students’ math outcomes. Moderated regression was utilized to examine associations between students’ high school math-related strengths and their math achievement, as well as how these relationships may differ based upon students’ prior math achievement. The findings suggest that a number of students’ strengths in math were positively related to their math achievement; however, some of these relationships differed base upon prior math achievement levels. Accordingly, while math-related strengths can be equally beneficial for students in some instances, in other instances there is a need to better understand these relationships with some nuance. Implications for K-16 STEM education policy, practice and research are discussed.

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Data Availability

The data that support the findings of this study are openly available from the National Center for Education Statistics at https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/hsls09/hsls09_data.asp

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Akeisha Young for her assistance with earlier stages of this research. I would also like to thank Dr. Jane Daquin for her insightful feedback regarding the research design and development of this study.

Funding

This research was supported by a grant from the American Educational Research Association which receives funds for its “AERA Grants Program” from the National Science Foundation under NSF award NSF-DRL #1749275. Opinions reflect those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those AERA or NSF.

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Williams, K.L. Contextualizing Math-Related Strengths and Math Achievement: Positive Math Orientations, Social Supports and the Moderating Effects of Prior Math Knowledge. Journal for STEM Educ Res (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41979-020-00033-z

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Keywords

  • K-16 STEM education
  • Mathematics
  • Strength-based research