Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Teacher Education and Leadership

Committee Chair(s)

Katherine N. Vela (Committee Co-Chair), Mario I. Suarez (Committee Co-Chair)


Katherine N. Vela


Mario I. Suarez


Tye Campbell


Brynja R. Kohler


Jessica F. Shumway


The purpose of this research is to look for ways mathematics teachers can increase their students' mathematics self-concept (i.e., achievement, confidence, and interest). Many students avoid taking upper-level mathematics classes or pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). However, the need for STEM professionals in the workforce will increase in future years and there is a projected shortage of students who will be trained to fill the demand. This research proposes that mathematics teachers can actively work to improve their students' self-concept by providing a caring and emotionally supportive learning environment as well as providing instruction that builds students' conceptual understanding of mathematics instead of focusing on memorization of procedures and test preparation. To investigate the influence mathematics teachers have in building student mathematics self-concept, I analyzed survey data from the High School Longitudinal Study, 2009 (HSLS:09). The HSLS:09 study was sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics and followed over 23,000 U.S. high school students for a period of seven years, beginning in ninth grade. The NCES gathered data describing students' achievement, attitudes, and perceptions about a variety of educational topics, including mathematics. I used these surveys, along with surveys from their ninth-grade mathematics teacher to examine the influence that providing conceptually focused mathematics instruction in a caring and supportive learning environment had on student self-concept. I found that the self-concept of female students decreased throughout high school while that of male students increased, and that both instruction and environment positively influenced self-concept. Additionally, I found the influence of conceptually focused instruction had a long-term influence and that it was especially important for Hispanic students. These results should be used to inform future professional development, pre-service teacher instruction, and curriculum development so educators can take a conscious, active role in providing instruction in mathematics which will build the mathematics self-concept of their students.



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