The Association between Mathematics Identity and Student Performance on Mathematics Tests: Is it a Possible Tool to Mitigate Inequality in Educational Outcomes?

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Johns Hopkins University
Mathematics is a core academic subject taught to K-12 students throughout the United States of America. Despite being increasingly important for success in the global knowledge economy, historic inequalities in mathematics achievement remain substantial today. This study investigates whether mathematics identity, defined as the relationship with performing mathematics, is an important factor that explains some of this inequality. Utilizing data from the 2013 and 2015 fourth-grade and eighth-grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the analysis examined both the associations between mathematics identity and student mathematics achievement at the fourth-grade and eighth-grade levels, as well as the associations between teacher assessment practices and student mathematics identity. Mathematics identity was found to explain a substantial portion of the variation in student achievement for both fourth-grade and eighth-grade students. However, teacher assessment practices did not have any substantial association with mathematics identities, thereby suggesting that interventions in assessment practices would be unlikely to boost achievement by enhancing mathematics identity. Variations in these associations across demographic groups were also analyzed. Mathematics identity appeared to be a stronger predictor of mathematics achievement among fourth-grade male students compared to fourth-grade female students, but no gender differences in the associations were found among eighth-grade students. Finally, disparities in mathematics achievement between racial/ethnic groups were substantial, but mathematics identity could not account for most of these differences.
demographic inequality, mathematics achievement, mathematics identity, National Assessment of Educational Progress, performative perspective, teacher assessment