Math is for me: A field intervention to strengthen math self-concepts in Spanish-speaking 3rd grade children
Children’s math self-concepts—their beliefs about themselves and math—are important for teachers, parents, and students, because they are linked to academic motivation, choices, and outcomes. There have been several attempts at improving math achievement based on the training of math skills. Here we took a complementary approach and conducted an intervention study to boost children’s math self-concepts. Our primary objective was to assess the feasibility of whether a novel multicomponent intervention—one that combines explicit and implicit approaches to help children form more positive beliefs linking themselves and math—can be administered in an authentic school setting. The intervention was conducted in Spain, a country in which math achievement is below the average of other OECD countries. We tested third grade students (N = 180; Mage = 8.79 years; 96 girls), using treatment and comparison groups and pre- and posttest assessments. A novelty of this study is that we used both implicit and explicit measures of children’s math self-concepts. For a subsample of students, we also obtained an assessment of year-end math achievement. Math self-concepts in the treatment and comparison groups did not significantly differ at pretest. Students in the treatment group demonstrated a significant increase in math self-concepts from pretest to posttest; students in the comparison group did not. In the treatment group, implicit math self-concepts at posttest were associated with higher year-end math achievement, assessed approximately 3 months after the completion of the intervention. Taken together, the results suggest that math self-concepts are malleable and that social–cognitive interventions can boost children’s beliefs about themselves and math. Based on the favorable results of this feasibility study, it is appropriate to formally test this novel multicomponent approach for improving math self-concepts using randomized controlled trial (RCT) design.
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