Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career, and Higher Education

Major Professor

Arthur Shapiro, Ph.D.


Anxiety, Self-efficacy, Teacher behaviors, Parental support, Motivation


Over the past decade, the number of students entering postsecondary institutions immediately after high school has been decreasing, while the number of non-traditional aged students, defined as adults over 25, has substantially increased, with women making up the majority of this adult student group. Mathematics education is an area where non-traditional age women tend to have difficulty. Fifteen individual interviews were conducted with non-traditional age women enrolled in a community college, 10 identifying mathematics as the subject they would least enjoy and 5 identifying mathematics as the subject they would most enjoy. Data were analyzed by comparing the women's stories and drawing out common themes.

Eight major themes and six sub-themes emerged: (1) Acquiring a college education is a personal goal; (2) Adequate study time is necessary to understand and to retain mathematical concepts; (3) Experiences with mathematics at an early age remain in one's memory, (3a) Poor experience with mathematics at an early age tended to make participants believe they could not learn mathematics, (3b) Positive experience with mathematics at an early age tended to provide participants a higher degree of self-efficacy in succeeding in mathematics courses; (4) Parental behavior and expectations play a role in children's self-perception, (4a) Absence of parental/family support tended to discourage participants from pursuing further education, (4b) Presence of parental/family support tended to encourage participants in pursuing further education; (5) Teacher behaviors and teaching methods matter, (5a) Negative teacher behaviors tended to cause some to develop poor mathematics self-concept, (5b) Positive teacher behaviors tended to encourage some to persevere in understanding mathematics; (6) Feelings of powerlessness may impede learning mathematics; (7) Self-esteem can survive in spite of past failure; (8) Motivation to understand mathematical concepts remained high.

Seventeen implications for both faculty and students were drawn from the responses of the participants. Both metacognitive and affective factors present in learning mathematics were expressed and meanings attached to experiences were reported in participants' own words. Suggestions are offered explaining what teachers might do to reinforce positive metacognitions and reduce those that are negative. Recommendations for further research are provided and personal reflections are shared.