Math! What’s the problem?

npj Summary of research highlighting interventions should be developed and tested to target math anxiety⎮1 min read

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If you feel anxious about math, it is likely you are not alone. Math anxiety is regarded by researchers to be a common emotion felt by students and one of the reasons why students avoid studying STEM courses or underperform in related subjects. Remarkably, previous research has never revealed a link between math anxiety and math avoidance or achievement in STEM courses.

A team of scientists from Georgetown University, USA, University of Oxford, UK, and Rotman Research Institute, Canada, tested the link between math anxiety and STEM outcomes, by measuring math anxiety, math ability and individual differences among 183 undergraduate students attending their first semester at university. For the next four years, the scientists tracked the students’ achievements and avoidance of STEM courses via their official academic transcripts.

The results of the study showed math anxiety predicted a reduction in the STEM courses students chose to study, and the students’ attainment of lower STEM grades. However, these predictions were made independent of math ability, highlighting the need to develop interventions that target math anxiety to improve students’ academic outcomes in STEM courses.   

To learn more about this study by authors Richard Daker, Sylvia Gattas, H. Moriah Sokolowski, Adam Green and Ian Lyons, please read ‘First-year students’ math anxiety predicts STEM avoidance and underperformance throughout university, independently of math ability’ published by npj Science of Learning.

Reference

Daker, R.J., Gattas, S.U., Sokolowski, H.M. et al. First-year students’ math anxiety predicts STEM avoidance and underperformance throughout university, independently of math ability. npj Sci. Learn. 6, 17 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41539-021-00095-7

Gabrielle Ahern

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