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Math Anxiety

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Christie Nerino

on 18 April 2014

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Transcript of Math Anxiety

Math Anxiety: A Brief Overview

My intention here is to provide a general overview of mathematics anxiety, a brief summary of the current research and a discussion of some of its implications. In later Experience Centres, I'll extend my investigation to explore the issue of math anxiety from a variety of different perspectives .

Dealing with Math Anxiety
Approaches to dealing with math anxiety can be broadly separated into three categories:
References, Resources and Works Cited
Ashcraft, M. and Faust, M.W. (1994). Mathematics Anxiety and Mental Arithmetic Performance: An Exploratory Investigation. Cognition and Emotion. 8 (2), 97-125.

Ashcraft, M. (2002). Math anxiety: Personal, Educational and Cognitive Consequences. Accessed online: http://www.thinkingahead.com.au/Documents/math_anxiety-consequences.pdf

Eden, C., Heine, A. and Jacobs, A. (2013). Mathematics Anxiety and Its Development in the Course of Formal Schooling. Psychology 4 (6A2), 27-35. Accessed online: http://file.scirp.org/Html/33528.html.

Niss, L. K. (2002). Graduate Thesis. Brief Mindfulness Intervention on Math Test Anxiety and Exam Scores in a High School Population. Accessed online: http://digitool.library.colostate.edu///exlibris/dtl/d3_1/apache_media/L2V4bGlicmlzL2R0bC9kM18xL2FwYWNoZV9tZWRpYS8xNzQwNDY=.pdf.

Richardson, F.C. and Suinn, R.M. (1972). The Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale: psychometric data. Accessed online: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/232487147_The_Mathematics_Anxiety_Rating_Scale_Psychometric_data

Tobias, S. (1990). Math Anxiety: An Update. NACADA Journal. Spring, 10 (1), 47-50.

Vallee-Tourangeau, F., Sirota, M. and Villejoubert, G. Reducing the Impact of Math Anxiety on Mental Arithmetic: The Importance of Distributed Cognition. Accessed online: http://mindmodeling.org/cogsci2013/papers/0641/paper0641.pdf.

Young, C., Wu, S.S. and Menon, V. The neurodevelopmental basis of math anxiety. Psychological Science. 20 (10), 1-10. Accessed online: http://mathbrain.stanford.edu/publications/Young_Neurodevelopmental_Basis_Math_Anxiety_12.

What is Math Anxiety?
"Make Math Fun"
Mindfulness, Attention and Relaxation Approaches
Physical Effects
'butterflies' in the stomach
lack of focus
sweaty palms
feelings of 'brain freeze' -- not being able to think
Educational Implications
Feelings of tension or anxiety that interfere with the manipulation of numbers or the solving of problems in
a wide variety of ordinary life and academic situations.
~ Richardson and Suinn, 1972

The panic, helplessness, paralysis and mental disorganization that arises among some people when they are required to solve a [math] problem.
~ Tobias and Weissbrod 1980
Cognitive Effects
These feelings of anxiety often arise not only from doing math, but from even thinking about doing math. In fact, for highly math anxious individuals (HMAs), thinking about math triggers pain receptors in the brain -- thinking about math actually hurts. Estimates for the prevalence of math anxiety in the general population are as high as 1 in 5 people.
working with students to develop an ability to mindful and to reduce stress through attention on the breath or body
meditation, yoga and 'on purpose' breathing are examples of this type of approach
students learn to respond to and manage anxiety symptoms in the body to improve well-being and achievement

decrease in working memory capacity
slower processing speed
compromised ability to engage in mental math calculations and higher-level mathematics

In the short term, students who have HMA may have difficulty engaging with mathematics. Their test scores and achievement in math are considerably lower than average, especially in upper elementary and high school.
Students with HMA usually rely on algorithms to get through assignments and tests, but often lack the conceptual understanding to make this a good long term strategy
In the long term, students who have HMA tend to avoid math -- missing out on careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) - related fields.
What Can I Do Right Now?
IQ and Risk Factors

Math anxiety is only weakly related to overall intelligence. Moreover, the small correlation of 􏰂.17 between math anxiety and intelligence is probably inflated because IQ tests include quantitative items, on which individuals with math anxiety perform more poorly than those without math anxiety.
Much debate exists over the specifics of math ability and math anxiety. Is there a math gene? Are there some facets of math that are more important than others? What role does general IQ play?

Most studies have focused on high school and adult populations, with more work to be done at the elementary level. Most importantly for teachers, researcher Mark Ashcraft (2002) states:
However, there do seem to be some potential risk factors correlated with math anxiety, including negative math experiences, poor visual-spatial process and difficulties with abstract thinking. Feelings of self-efficacy appear to play a protective role.
Encourage, model and practice using a variety of manipulatives and tools to help solve problems. Research has shown that the use of manipulatives can decrease demands on working memory, allowing for more success and decreased anxiety in students prone to HMA.
Experiment with techniques to reduce anxiety, including deep breathing, yoga or mindfulness meditation.
Recognize that previous school experiences are important. Parents and teachers may be math anxious themselves -- they could believe the myths and misconceptions we've been studying. Think about the importance of math, and about the language we use when we're talking about it. Simply being aware that math anxiety exists is a good first step in beginning to deal with it.
Theories about Math Anxiety
Global Avoidance Theory
(Aschcraft and Faust, 1994)
students who are HMA tend to avoid 'math influenced' situations, so they develop weaker math abilities than non-HMA students
Feedback Loop
(Wu, 2012)
anxiety promotes negative beliefs about math, students' ability to do math, and math avoidance, which lead to fewer opportunities to practice math. Lack of practice exacerbates already-present difficulties that practice would normally help with, which contributes to lower self-confidence and higher anxiety.
examples are the Yay Math program (www.yaymath.org) and Bedtime Math (www.bedtimemath.org)
these programs aim to decrease anxiety and promote enjoyment through humourous, engaging instruction and/or emphasizing enjoyment of math
(the video is a long one, but summarizes the thinking behind this approach well -- watch at your leisure)
Remedial Approaches
tries to remedy math anxiety by increasing confidence and ability through tutoring and extra support in math and study skills
examples are Scholars Tutoring (http://www.scholarscanada.com) and JUMP Math (https://jumpmath.org/cms/)
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