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Chang, M.; Bang, H.; Kim, S.; Pontier, R.W. Enhanced Math Efficacy and Performance of Minority Students. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 16 June 2024).
Chang M, Bang H, Kim S, Pontier RW. Enhanced Math Efficacy and Performance of Minority Students. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 16, 2024.
Chang, Mido, Hyejin Bang, Sunha Kim, Ryan W. Pontier. "Enhanced Math Efficacy and Performance of Minority Students" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 16, 2024).
Chang, M., Bang, H., Kim, S., & Pontier, R.W. (2023, December 05). Enhanced Math Efficacy and Performance of Minority Students. In Encyclopedia.
Chang, Mido, et al. "Enhanced Math Efficacy and Performance of Minority Students." Encyclopedia. Web. 05 December, 2023.
Enhanced Math Efficacy and Performance of Minority Students
Teacher support plays a crucial role in enhancing students’ mathematical performance as previous research has consistently shown. Given that students’ math performance in the United States has historically lagged that of other nations, it is imperative to investigate the teacher’s role in math education. Furthermore, it is essential to examine the impact of teacher support on academically at-risk students.
math performance math efficacy teacher support student class preparation racial minority linguistic minority social class

1. Introduction

Fostering robust math performance and instilling confidence among students stands as an ongoing challenge for educators and policymakers alike. This challenge takes on heightened significance within the context of US education, where the math performance of high school students trails behind that of their peers in other developed countries [1]. Researchers have also linked the United States’ poor math performance to a significant failure in providing adequate support for minority students, including those from racial and linguistic minority backgrounds [2][3]. Scholars have diligently sought to pinpoint the underlying factors contributing to this subpar math performance while also delving into the substantial achievement gap that exists between minority and White students [4][5][6][7][8]. In response to this dual concern—the overall lackluster performance and the pronounced performance disparity—educational researchers in the US have proffered recommendations aimed at identifying pivotal drivers for enhancing math performance and refining the math classroom environment [8].
Significantly, the role of teacher support within math classrooms has emerged as a critical determinant for cultivating students’ academic self-efficacy and overall outcomes within the US educational landscape [9]. The effective cultivation of students’ ability to comprehend mathematical ideas, concepts, and procedures can be achieved through meaningful discourse with teachers, particularly when teachers construct specialized contexts for the purposeful use of language [10]. This factor assumes even greater importance for minority students [11][12][13]. Within schools marked by supportive educators attuned to students’ individual needs, the likelihood of engagement in negative behaviors, such as substance abuse or violence, diminishes. Correspondingly, students are more inclined to develop positive self-perceptions and exhibit prosocial behaviors, thereby fostering a conducive environment for academic success [14].
Furthermore, research underscores the necessity of exploring the impact of teacher influence on students’ educational outcomes while accounting for the students’ familial backgrounds and the broader school milieu [12]. In this study, researchers attempted to provide actionable insights concerning how teachers can impact minority students’ academic motivation and their math outcomes in school. This effort is particularly important in the context of the intricate dynamics of diverse groups and their interplay with both academic and non-academic outcomes. Consequently, the present study undertakes a thorough examination of the distinct effects of teacher support on students hailing from varied racial, linguistic, and social classes. This investigation encompasses both performance outcomes and self-efficacy within the math classroom context, intricately intertwined with the dynamics of the math class itself. The researchers posit that a comprehensive exploration of the interactions between these variables is indispensable to comprehending the nuanced facets of teacher support’s efficacy for minoritized students, who contribute diverse cultural perspectives to their math education. This effort is of particular significance in the US math education that suffers from a performance gap between mainstream and marginalized students [3].

2. Racial Disparities in Math Self-Efficacy and Achievement

Disparities in students’ math efficacy can be construed as structured sociocultural responses stemming from their environment, which in turn impact their self-efficacy. According to Spencer et al. [15], a student’s preexisting beliefs concerning their affiliation with an ethnic or racial group can exert influence on their academic performance. This phenomenon transpires through an internalization process wherein students view group performance as indicative of individual ability and interest in a particular subject. This notion, known as “stereotype threat”, has the potential to disrupt students’ performance and lead to unfavorable outcomes such as stigmatization, heightened uncertainty, anxiety, and ultimately, subpar performance in mathematics [16].
Several research studies investigating the impact of math efficacy on math performance within minority groups have yielded inconsistent findings [12][17][18][19][20]. It is evident that human development and learning are intricately linked to cultural, institutional, and historical contexts. The developmental trajectory of children unfolds in two distinct phases: social and psychological. During the early stages of life, children’s psychological growth is facilitated through interactions with their surroundings, and these interactions are subsequently internalized through an intra-psychological process. Performance in math class easily invites sociocultural stereotypes, which leads to perceptions of competence based on race and color. Cheema and Skultety [21] analyzed nationally representative data from 15-year-old US students and found that Black and Hispanic students consistently overestimated their abilities in science and mathematics, whereas white students consistently underestimated their abilities.

3. Linguistic Group Difference in Math Efficacy and Performance

Proficiency in language plays a pivotal role not only in the comprehension of written text and writing skills but also in the acquisition of mathematical knowledge [10][20]. While the numerical system is often deemed a universal language, the mastery of mathematical text and word problems necessitates specific language competencies, including precise vocabulary, syntax, and symbols. Unlike their proficient English-speaking peers, students classified as English language learners (ELLs) confront the additional challenge of simultaneously mastering English language skills while engaging with grade-level content, including mathematics [22]. Consequently, they encounter heightened obstacles in achieving success in mathematics [23][24].
In the exploration of disparities between ELLs and non-ELLs concerning self-efficacy, Soland and Sandilos [25] highlighted that ELL students tend to commence their academic journey with notably lower levels of self-efficacy compared to their non-ELL counterparts. Moreover, their low self-efficacy is linked to slow growth in math and reading proficiency as they progress through middle school grades. In a study involving fifth graders, Sandilos et al. [26] discovered that students who had not yet attained English proficiency exhibited inferior performance and self-efficacy across both mathematics and science, unlike their English-proficient peers. Interestingly, the relationship between limited English proficiency and math achievement was not fully explained by self-efficacy. Kim et al. [27] revealed that ELL students harboring robust beliefs in their capacity to learn within specific content domains were more likely to employ cognitive and metacognitive strategies to aid the comprehension, retention, and application of academic language. To summarize, ELLs often contend with lower academic self-efficacy than their non-ELL counterparts. Nonetheless, cultivating high self-efficacy in mathematics could serve as a potent catalyst for supporting their accomplishments within English-based math classrooms.

4. Impact of Home and School Environments on Math Efficacy and Performance

The home environment, encompassing factors such as family socioeconomic status (SES), parental occupation, home literacy surroundings, and parental role strain emerges as the foremost predictor of initial disparities in students’ academic achievements. Students from low SES households, in contrast to their middle- and upper-income counterparts, often lack early exposure to mathematical concepts, quality instruction, and personalized attention in mathematics [28][29]. Consequently, they encounter limited access to educational resources and reduced parental involvement in their learning [5][30][31]. These circumstances frequently result in academic lag, contributing to diminished math efficacy and reduced engagement in mathematical learning [32][33]. This sequence of causation fosters a cycle of disengagement and subdued expectations. Furthermore, disadvantages within the home environment can be compounded by inequitable opportunities within the educational system [29]. Notably, school segregation based on social class influences students’ motivation levels and exposure to high-quality educational resources and qualified educators [34][35]. Black students are three times more likely to live in poverty than White students [1], and the academic achievement gap is largely attributed to disparities in SES [36]. Furthermore, distinctions in school-based experiences between minoritized students and parents and those of White students have also been invoked to elucidate the achievement gap. Ancis et al. [37] and Herman [38] highlighted that Black students often perceive instances of racial prejudice within academic settings, which elevates emotional stress and dampens motivation to learn. This divergence in school experiences leads to fewer opportunities for Black students to engage with high-achieving peers and hinders their overall learning environment [39]. To encapsulate, minoritized students encounter fewer learning opportunities at home and encounter greater obstacles within schools when compared to their White counterparts.

5. Influences of Students’ Unpreparedness on Math Classroom Dynamics

The math classroom provides a multifaceted setting encompassing various contexts, including the physical classroom environment and the social interactions within it. A burgeoning body of research underscores the integral role of student behavior and peer interactions in shaping motivation, engagement, and academic achievement [40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48]. Students who perceive their school environment as supportive and welcoming tend to invest their time in academic pursuits, resulting in reduced disciplinary concerns and increased instructional engagement.
Within this contextual framework of math classrooms, an examination of the ramifications of students’ unpreparedness in class emerges as a central avenue for understanding behavioral engagement, fostering math learning, and reinforcing effective teaching strategies. Behavioral engagement, characterized by students’ persistent effort, focused concentration, and interest in academic tasks, notably correlates with academic achievement [49]. Ford et al. [50] and Peterson-Lewis and Bratton [51] have attributed low academic performance among minority students to disengaged behaviors and reduced behavioral engagement. On the contrary, students’ completion of homework, serving as a tangible manifestation of behavioral engagement, has demonstrated a positive association with enhanced math performance across middle and high school levels [51][52][53][54].

6. Supportive Teacher Influence in Mathematics Classrooms

Teachers hold a pivotal role as influential role models within the school environment, greatly impacting students’ engagement in learning [42], academic achievements [9], and the development of their mathematics self-efficacy and performance [55][56]. The implementation of effective instructional practices by teachers has proven to be a potent tool for inspiring students and enhancing their confidence in mathematics. Research by Marchant et al. [57] further underscores that teachers’ responsiveness to students’ needs in a supportive setting fosters motivation and self-efficacy, subsequently influencing academic performance. In school mathematics, Martin [58] studied high-achieving Black students in grades seven through nine and validated previous findings that Black students face numerous challenges both within and outside of school that impede their progress. However, if they navigate these hurdles successfully, they are more likely to persevere and attain academic and mathematical success. Therefore, the presence of supportive teachers in nurturing math classrooms proves pivotal for the academic success of minority students, encompassing mathematics and beyond. Investigating disparate experiences in schooling is imperative for comprehending the academic outcome disparities between minority and white students.


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