Mathematics Anxiety: Identity Work in a Gifted Prospective Elementary Teacher’s Mathematics-related Personal Narratives



mathematics teacher education research, identity, maths anxiety, narrative, gifted and talented, pre-service teachers, teacher preparation


Previous studies have focused on negative physiological sensations and psychological emotions of mathematics anxiety experienced in real time. Similarly, prior research has noted that prospective elementary teachers (PSTs) may experience such feelings of distress while learning to teach mathematics in their teacher-preparation programs. Mathematics teacher educators have sought to reduce elementary PSTs’ mathematics anxiety by improving their mathematical content knowledge and discipline-specific pedagogical knowledge. But why might mathematics anxiety persist even after elementary PSTs have successfully completed such teacher-preparation coursework? Our case study of a female elementary PST, identified as gifted, illustrates how mathematics anxiety, when reinforced by personal narratives that create and reiterate patterns in past mathematics learning, can operate as an enduring identity (e.g., a mathematics-avoidant identity), long after the stressful events prompting that anxiety have ended. Thus, such narrative identities can engender new/similar experiences of anxiety in present and future mathematics learning/teaching and can ultimately influence the educational and professional decision-making of adult PSTs, even though such self-understanding is based in oft-told stories of childhood and adolescence. The influence of mathematics-anxiety identities merits further exploration, as most previous studies of mathematics anxiety have tended not to address the significant identity work that PSTs undertake during professional development.


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