Child-guided math practice: The role of regulatory emotional self-efficacy for children experiencing homelessness

AbstractA child’s perceived ability, over and above actual ability, matters for various behavioral outcomes, academic or personal. In the current paper, we looked at one type of self-efficacy: children’s perceived ability to regulate their own negative emotions. Our question was whether regulatory emotional self-efficacy (RESE) affects math learning for children who are faced with homelessness. The specific math enrichment centered on child-guided math practice: Children were given a commercially available app and encouraged to pick out their own practice problems. Our thought was that RESE might affect children’s learning when they are given a chance to determine their own math-practice path. The goal of the current study was to establish this link empirically. The sample included 5- to 12-year-olds who attended a summer program organized for homeless children. Results confirmed our hypothesis. Children who scored lowest on the RESE scales (N = 40) benefited less from the math practice than children who scored highest (N = 46). Specifically, the improvement in math was correlated with number of practice sessions only for high-RESE children, not for low-RESE children. These results suggest that RESE is an important factor in learning math, to be considered when developing student-centered pedagogy.

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