Cognitive and environmental factors in the development and impact of mathematical resilience in childhood

  • Katie Baker

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The aim of this thesis is to understand the nature of mathematical resilience (MR) in the early primary school years and how parenting relates to the development of MR. Although MR has been used successfully to support older learners struggling with mathematics there has been little research into the development and impact of MR in primary aged children. One of the reasons for this is that there is not currently a scale to measure MR in this age group and therefore a scale to measure MR in Year 1 children was developed as part of this research. This thesis uses mixed methods to investigate whether MR can be measured successfully in five and six year olds, whether links between MR and mathematical performance in primary children can be found and whether the concept of MR can be used to develop a successful intervention to help parents support their Year 1 children in mathematics.

    Using cognitive interviewing, exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis and reliability analysis the twelve item Baker Children’s Mathematical Resilience Scale was developed. The scale was used in two longitudinal studies to show positive quantitative links between MR and performance in Year 1 children. Two experimental studies were run; one showing positive links between MR and performance on a mathematics task in primary school children and the second showing links between a parent and child’s MR and between parents’ MR and the way in which they support their children during a mathematics activity. An intervention which uses the concept of MR to help parents to support their children in mathematics was developed, piloted and evaluated using process evaluation, qualitative and quantitative methods. Two case studies demonstrate the potential of the intervention to create positive changes in parents’ behaviour when working with their children on mathematics.

    The significance of this thesis is that it establishes a scale for measuring MR suitable for use with primary school aged children and demonstrates for the first time associations between MR and performance in this age group. It also develops an intervention that shows potential for improving the MR of parents and children and for teaching parents better ways in which to help their children in mathematics. Finally it demonstrates, for the first time, links between parents’ MR and the way they work with their children on mathematics as well as between parent and child MR.

    The thesis has implications for future research, suggesting that the development and impact of MR on performance in mathematics should be further investigated, and providing the means to do so in the form of the Baker Children’s Mathematical Resilience Scale. The research also has implications for schools suggesting that they should carefully consider the attitudes towards mathematics that they are fostering in their children alongside the skills they are teaching them. Schools should endeavour to engage parents, looking to work with and support them as partners rather than adopting a top down didactic approach. For parents, this thesis suggests that there are positive ways to help their children in mathematics and it is not necessary for them to be strong mathematicians to do so. Finally for anyone who has experienced problems when learning mathematics this thesis offers hope that by building MR the experience of learning mathematics can become more pleasant and successful in future.
    Date of AwardJul 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorEmma Vardy (Supervisor), Julia Carroll (Supervisor) & Duncan Lawson (Supervisor)

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