Date of Award

Fall 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy and Leadership

First Advisor

Henk, William

Second Advisor

Kepner, Henry

Third Advisor

Lopez, Francesca


The purpose of the current study was to extend the research on number sense to the middle school level and to simultaneously consider socioemotional elements related to the construct at this developmental stage. Its genesis was initially rooted in an ongoing and dramatic emphasis by U.S. policymakers, researchers, and educators on improving mathematics achievement in order to compete globally in technology and innovation. Despite debates about optimal curriculum and instruction, tremendous support exists for the construct of number sense. However, middle school research examining the phenomena has been limited to intervention protocols targeting specific skillsets and better measurement of its domains. Concomitantly, educational research has produced ample evidence of the decline in student mathematics motivation over time, and the corresponding literature establishes a link between mathematics self-concept and mathematics achievement, particularly during adolescence. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 provides a sample of 4,425 U.S. eighth graders for the present study, assessed directly and indirectly in cognitive, demographic, and affective domains. Multiple regression analyses confirmed the hypotheses that number sense predicts both mathematics self-concept and mathematics achievement at the middle school level, when controlling for gender, race, socioeconomic status, and special education services. Additionally, a path analysis with Statistical Analysis Software (SAS) and the Sobel test revealed that mathematics self-concept mediates the relationship between number sense and mathematics achievement. This indirect effect, when combined with the direct effect of number sense, results in a significant, medium total effect value of .35 for the model. By incorporating this knowledge regarding the interconnection of these three constructs into mathematics curriculum and instruction, as well as teacher education, the United States can move closer to bringing about equity of opportunity and motivating students to pursue more complex mathematics coursework and subsequently professions.