An investigation of attitudes, anxiety, and achievement of college algebra students using brain -compatible teaching techniques

Kimberly S McFadden, Tennessee State University


This study investigated changes in anxiety, attitudes, and achievement of college algebra students using brain-compatible teaching techniques. Gender differences were also investigated. The subjects were 53 community college students enrolled in two college algebra classes. A pretest-posttest control group design was used. Both groups completed the Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale (MARS) and Aiken's Mathematics Attitude Scale (AMAS) the first and last weeks of the semester. Also, students participated in interviews at the beginning of the semester and answered a similar questionnaire at the end of the semester. The experimental group was taught with an emphasis on brain-compatible teaching techniques whereas the control group was taught using traditional methods. Data from the MARS and AMAS were analyzed using parametric and non-parametric procedures. Interview and questionnaire responses were categorized as positive or negative, and changes in responses from the interview to the questionnaire were analyzed. Chi-square tests were used to determine if opinions differed between the groups. Although significant reductions in math anxiety were observed for brain-based techniques (p = .054) and traditional methods (p = .008), no significant difference in reduction was observed when the methods were compared (p = .376). Significant improvements in attitude were observed when comparing brain-based to traditional methods (p = .058). Math attitudes were also analyzed in sub-categories of enjoyment and value. Enjoyment of math improved significantly with brain-based teaching compared to traditional methods (p = .093) but value did not (p = .314). Math attitude levels improved when brain-based teaching was used (p = .0004) whereas attitudes remained unchanged with traditional teaching methods (p = .215). This was also observed for both the enjoyment (p = .002, .332) and value factors (p = .001, .126). Additionally, positive response changes in enjoyment were determined for the experimental group (χ2 (2) = 6.58). No significant differences in final grades were found (p = .843) when brain-based methods were compared to traditional methods. No gender differences were observed in anxiety, attitude, or final grades when comparing the methods; however, females had significantly higher grades than males in both groups (p = .009, .016).

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Kimberly S McFadden, "An investigation of attitudes, anxiety, and achievement of college algebra students using brain -compatible teaching techniques" (2001). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3024628.