Mathematics anxiety and stereotype threat: shared mechanisms, negative consequences, and promising interventions
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Title: Mathematics anxiety and stereotype threat: shared mechanisms, negative consequences, and promising interventions
Journal: Research in Mathematics Education, Vol. 15, No. 2, 115 128,
Authors: Erin A. Maloney, Marjorie W. Schaeffer, and Sian L. Beilock (2013)
What did we ask?
- How do math anxiety and stereotype threat affect academic performance?
Stereotype threat: The tendency to underperform when aware of a relevant stereotype. For example, a female student may underperform on a math test if she is aware of the false stereotype that “boys are better than girls at math”.
Math Anxiety: Feelings of fear and apprehension related to mathematical problem-solving.
What did we do?
We reviewed the current research on math anxiety and stereotype threat. We identified potential causes of math anxiety and stereotype threat, their impact on academic performance, and how to reduce their effects.
What did we find?
Both math anxiety and stereotype threat have negative consequences on math performance. One explanation for this underperformance is that negative thoughts associated with math anxiety and stereotype threat take up valuable working memory necessary to solve complex math problems. We also found that students who identify strongly with a relevant stereotype are even more affected by stereotype threat.
Why is this important?
Most students want to do well in school, but feelings of anxiety can negatively affect their performance. On the plus side, educators can act to reduce the impact of math anxiety and stereotype threat!
What can educators do to help?
- Ask students to write down how they feel about an upcoming test.
- Empower students to adopt more positive thoughts and attitudes about their abilities and mathematics in general
- Discuss the concept of stereotype threat with students. Even this simple act can help reduce its harmful effects!
Brought to you by Dr. Erin Maloney’s Cognition and Emotion Lab at the University of Ottawa