## Math Anxiety: Past Research, Promising Interventions, and a New Interpretation Framework

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**Title**

Math Anxiety: Past Research, Promising Interventions, and a New Interpretation Framework

**Authors**

Ramirez, G., Shaw, S.T., Maloney, E.A. (2018)

**Journal and DOI**

EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST, 53(3), 145–164, 2018

DOI: 10.1080/00461520.2018.1447384

**Previous Research **

Math anxiety negatively impacts math performance. A multitude of factors can contribute to the development of math anxiety. For example, math anxiety can be caused by poor math skills, genetic disposition, and socio-environmental factors.

**What did we ask?**

1. How does math anxiety affect math performance?

2. How can we alleviate math anxiety?

3. How can individual interpretations of math-related events impact the development of math anxiety

**How did we do it?**

We reviewed and analyzed current research in the field of math anxiety and identified any gaps in the literature.

**What did we find?**

There are two main accounts of how math anxiety impacts math performance:

The **disruption account**: Math anxiety induces negative thoughts which reduce mental “capacity” for performing math calculations.

The **reduced competency account**: Math anxious individuals avoid math, which leads to reduced math ability. This reduction in math ability then affects math performance and worsens math anxiety.

We found three main research-based interventions for math anxiety:

**Math skill and exposure interventions:** Improve students’ math competency and increase their engagement with math (e.g., math games).

**Interpretation of physiological arousal:** Viewing the physical reactions (e.g., increased adrenaline) that come from math as beneficial rather than detrimental to performance.

**Narrative and mind-set interventions: **Reframing failure as a means to improve performance (e.g., understanding failure does not equate to a lack of math ability).

**Interpretation Account: **One way that math anxiety can develop is through a negative** interpretation of math experiences and outcomes.**

**Take away Message**

Rather than the outcomes themselves, how we interpret those outcomes is what predominantly leads to experiencing math anxiety. That is, everyone could experience the same situation (e.g., failing a math test), but not everyone will necessarily develop math anxiety because each individual will interpret the situation differently.

**Brought to you by Dr. Erin Maloney’s Cognition and Emotion Lab at the University of Ottawa.**** **