As an Assistant Professor of Management Marketing in the School of Business Administration, Luanne Amato, EdD, is comfortable examining complicated data sets to make informed decisions. However, she’s found that not everyone feels the same.
Amato recently authored a chapter in the Handbook of Research on Social Inequality and Education entitled “Barriers to a STEM Career: Math Anxiety and the Adult Female" that provides clearer insights into the origins and effects of math anxiety as a reason why females are less likely to choose STEM majors and, ultimately, related careers.
Math anxiety is a psychological reaction that results in a diminished learning capacity, especially when students engage in complex subjects found in most STEM curriculums. Amato has found that females are more susceptible to this condition because of a long-established gender bias.
“Such bias is perpetrated during early childhood, reinforced through elementary and secondary education, and affects perceptions of learning ability, especially when students are confronted during higher education with complex course content,” Amato said. “When math is taught using active-learning strategies that include group and peer involvement, linking concepts and outcomes to real-world data sources, and assessments or grading that is not solely based on timed testing and one correct answer, students tend to do better.”
Amato has taught statistics for more than 15 years at Holy Family University. She’s seen firsthand how some female students have hampered their own ability to learn the at-times difficult material.
“I recognized how students, especially females, would block their learning ability with an irrational fear of a subject, even before they started the class,” she said.
Amato recommends implementing the American Statistical Association’s recommendations to overcome the number-based anxiety.
“Their recommendations include teaching statistical literacy, the use of real-world data applied to your career field, that tedious calculations should be accomplished through the use of technology, the use of active-learning strategies where students feel comfortable to work with knowledgeable peers, and access to school-based resources to assist with any difficulties that can't be resolved in the classroom,” Amato said.
Taking action in her own classroom, Amato will lead a new course in Spring 2020, Applied Business Statistics, that will relate concepts directly to the Management Marketing field.
“This course will provide business students with a basis in general descriptive and inferential statistical theory as it applies to business practices and organizational management.”