Lead Institution: Radford University
Investigators: Jeremy Wojdak, Arietta Fleming-Davies
The Biology undergraduate Math Attitudes and Anxiety Program (BioMAAP) is a cohesive program that can be added to existing courses and curricula, without replacing content instruction. Lead by Radford University (RU) and funded through the NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Education and Human Resources Directorate (IUSE: EHR) the project aims to design, implement and assess interventions to help undergraduate biology majors improve their attitudes and decrease their anxiety towards mathematics. Introductory mathematics courses are a key roadblock for many students interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Since student attitudes toward mathematics are strongly correlated with their performance, the goal of the current work is the development and study of strategies that reduce student resistance to mathematics. The approaches, which include biofeedback and metacognitive reflection, are readily adoptable and actively engage students in reducing their own mathematics anxiety and improving their attitude toward mathematics.
The core of the program is a set of online activities, with supplemental in-person group activities available when local resources permit. In biofeedback activities, students use simple smartphone devices to collect data on their own physiological responses to mathematics and to measure their responses to anxiety reducing interventions. Metacognitive activities lead students through purposeful reflections on their own methods of solving mathematics problems and learning quantitative content, which will help to demystify mathematics and improve student attitudes. While the current study involves biology majors, the knowledge generated by this project will be applicable to the amelioration of mathematics anxiety in students in all STEM disciplines. This, in turn, will increase the persistence of these majors and increase the number of STEM majors entering the graduate school and the workforce.