Date of Award

Summer 8-20-2021

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership


Richard Ackerman

Second Committee Member

Craig Mason

Third Committee Member

Catharine Biddle

Additional Committee Members

Maria Frankland

Allyson Dean


Many pre-service teachers suffer from mathematics anxiety which can lead to mathematics avoidance, poor mathematics performance, and the potential to pass on mathematics anxiety to their future students. More and more first-generation college students, who also suffer from math anxiety, are attending four-year universities and studying to be teachers. School leaders, educators, and researchers must recognize the serious nature of mathematics anxiety, how it negatively impacts learners, and how the cycle is perpetuated if the root causes of mathematics anxiety are not mitigated, especially in elementary teachers.

This quantitative study, which utilized an anonymous mathematics anxiety survey, examined the prevalence of math anxiety in first-generation pre-service elementary teachers matriculated in Elementary Education programs at University of Maine System (UMS) campuses. The goal was to determine whether there is disparity between first-generation college students and their non-first-generation peers, as well as whether mathematics anxiety and/or first-generation student status is impacted by perceived access to social capital and/or parent education.

The most important finding of this study was that pre-service teachers who are first-generation college students have no more mathematics anxiety than their non-first-generation peers. Although both groups of pre-service teachers reported more anxiety when being tested in mathematics than when learning mathematics, there was no significant generational difference in either learning or testing anxiety scores. There was also no statistically significant difference between mathematics anxiety scores of pre-service teachers whose parents had less than a two-year college degree and their peers whose parents had at least a two-year degree. Another important finding was that first-generation students’ perceived access to social capital was not less than their non-first-generation peers’ perceived access. Although access to social capital, especially access regarding university supports, significantly impacted mathematics anxiety, there was no generational significance. Additionally, most UMS pre-service teachers reported having access to social capital.

These findings suggest the need for continued resources and supports for all UMS pre-service teachers as well as considering additional mathematics resources to help mitigate the anxiety many experience.