“By the Numbers:” Language-based and Competency Enhancing Math Instruction to Alleviate Older Women’s Math Stereotype Threat Reactions

Lisa Hollis-Sawyer, Thomas P. Sawyer, Jr


Haack (1979) purported that the use of language in math-related statistics instruction (i.e.,
“statistical literacy”) is a good instructional approach to teach introductory statistics to learners.
Extending current stereotype threat research on women, older adults, and math, the present
research explored math-related anxiety and test performance outcomes between younger
(“traditional”) and older (“non-traditional”) women college learners in four different
instructional conditions (“math as language/competency enhancing,” “math as
language/competency destroying,” “math as numbers/competency enhancing,” and “math as
numbers/competency destroying,”). An exploratory investigation examined whether the “math
as language/competency enhancing” would elicit significant and assistive “self schema”
linkages with positive gender performance (“women are better at verbal tasks” concept) and
aging-related expertise (“older adults have accumulated language skills” concept) positive
stereotypes based on past language-related socialization experiences for women and older
adults. The positive impact of the “math as language/competency enhancing” instructional
condition in preliminary results appeared to benefit both younger and older women learners in
both personal attitudes toward math ability, general learning capability, and testing
performance behaviors. Analyses by age level supported the idea of a math-related “decrement”
stereotype threat belief among the older women learners, in comparison to younger women
learners, across learning conditions.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ije.v6i3.5949

Copyright (c) 2014 Lisa Hollis-Sawyer, Thomas P. Sawyer, Jr

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International Journal of Education ISSN 1948-5476

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