A STEM Mentoring Program's Influence on the Mathematics Self-Efficacy of Fourth-Grade Students
Johnson, Carmen L.
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Background: Students' mathematics capabilities are viewed as a gateway to economic empowerment. Research has shown mathematics self-efficacy as a significant variable that influences students’ academic achievement and choice of college majors and careers. Research studies further show that mathematics self-efficacy declines when students transition from elementary to middle school. Social supports such as teachers and mentors that provide encouragement and facilitate student learning also influence students’ mathematics self-efficacy. Purpose: This research study examined the influence of a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) undergraduate mentoring program on the mathematics self-efficacy of fourth-grade students. Results from the study will provide feedback to stakeholders to increase the effectiveness of mentoring programs and will assist in the design of future studies about STEM mentoring programs with young children. Methods: The research question for this study was: In what ways does a STEM mentoring program influence the mathematics self-efficacy of fourth-grade students? This study used a dependent t-test to compare pre-and post-mathematics self-efficacy scores collected approximately three months apart. The presurvey scores were collected before the mentoring began. The Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales was the instrument used to measure 57 fourth-grade students’ mathematics self-efficacy. Results: The mathematics self-efficacy scores were significantly higher three months after the STEM mentorship began, providing evidence to support the hypothesis that the STEM mentorship would improve students’ mathematical self-efficacy. Special education students showed significantly more improvement compared to the nonspecial education students mathematical efficacy. Conclusion: The results suggest that the STEM mentoring program improved mathematics self-efficacy of the fourth-grade students. Future research studies should further examine the influence STEM mentors have on special education students, as well as how students’ mathematics achievement is influenced in connection to changes in mathematics self-efficacy.