On the relation between math and spatial ability: The case of math anxiety
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- On the relation between math and spatial ability: The case of math anxiety
- Amanda M. Ferguson, Erin A. Maloney, Jonathan Fugelsang, and Evan F. Risko (2015).
Journal and DOI
- Learning and Individual Differences. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2015.02.007
- Math anxiety refers to feelings of fear, tension, and apprehension that may people experience when doing math. Math anxiety is often linked to lower achievement in math.
- What did we ask?
Do adults who are higher in math anxiety also perform worse on tasks that measure spatial processing?
- While performance on math tasks and spatial tasks are typically correlated, measures of spatial processing don’t feel like math. This made it unclear whether people who are anxious about math would also perform worse on tasks measuring their spatial processing.
How did we ask it?
- We conducted four studies. In Studies 1-4, adult participants completed self-report measures of their math anxiety, their spatial anxiety, and their navigation abilities. In Studies 3 and 4, participants also completed tests of their visualization skills and their navigation skills.
What did we find?
- Overall, people who were higher in math anxiety rated themselves as being more anxious when performing spatial tasks, were less skilled in navigation, and actually performed worse on measures of spatial processing.
Why is this important?
- While math and space are related, the fact that people who are anxious about math are more likely to be anxious about space and to perform worse on measures of spatial processing sheds important light onto how math anxiety may develop and can have important implications for how math is taught to students who are high in math anxiety.
Brought to you by Dr. Erin Maloney ‘s Cognition and Emotion Lab at University of Ottawa