Reciprocal relations among motivational frameworks, math anxiety, and math achievement in early elementary school

Reciprocal relations among motivational frameworks, math anxiety, and math achievement in early elementary school

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Title  

Reciprocal relations among motivational frameworks, math anxiety, and math achievement in early elementary school 

Authors  

Elizabeth A. Gunderson, Daeun Park, Erin A. Maloney, Sian L. Beilock & Susan C. Levin. (2018)  

Journal and DOI  

Journal: Journal of Cognition and Development, 19(1), 21-46 

DOI: 10.1080/15248372.2017.1421538 

Previous Research 

Individual differences in math achievement at school entry persist and strongly predict later achievement in both math and reading. 

Math anxiety is correlated with low math achievement and predicts avoidance of math-related courses, tasks, and careers. 

Both motivational frameworks and math anxiety have been shown to predict math achievement in early elementary school populations. 

What did we ask?  

Do reciprocal relations (i.e., both variables influence one another) among math achievement, math anxiety, and motivational frameworks (believing that math ability is fixed or malleable and having an orientation toward learning vs performance goals) help explain individual differences in math achievement? 

How did we do it?  

First and second grader students (N=634) were assessed twice, six months apart, in math achievement, motivational frameworks, and math anxiety.  

What did we find?   

Reciprocal relations exist between math anxiety and math achievement, and between motivational frameworks and math achievement.  

Children who believed that math ability is fixed at the beginning of the school year (i.e., people have a certain amount of intelligence in math and cannot get more intelligent with practice) showed higher math anxiety at the end of the school year.  

Children who scored high on the math achievement measure at the beginning of the school year had lower levels of math anxiety at the end of the year and were more likely to endorse the view that math is something that you can get better at with practice.   

Take away Message  

Reciprocal effects are already present in the first two years of formal schooling, with math achievement and attitudes feeding off one another to produce either a detrimental or beneficial cycle. Helping young children to improve both their math performance and their math attitudes can set them up for a long-lasting positive relationship with math. 

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

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