Namkung, J. M., Peng, P., & Lin, X. (2019). The relation between mathematics anxiety and mathematics performance among school-aged students: A meta-analysis.

Review of Educational Research, 89(3), 459-496. doi:10.3102/0034654319843494

This article is a meta-analysis on data selected from 131 previous studies. The meta-analysis investigated 478 effect sizes. The researchers aim to investigate which prevalent theories of math anxiety and performance have empirical support. The theories included in this meta-analysis include:  Bidirectional Theory (temporal relations),  Cognitive Interference Theory (working memory and difficulty of mathematical tasks) and Deficit Theory: (grade level)

Article Summary

The purpose of the meta-analysis was to identify the relationship between math anxiety and performance for school aged children. Additionally, the authors aim to investigate if grade level (elementary versus secondary), temporal relations, difficulty of math tasks, dimensions of math anxiety measures, perceived importance (effects on grade) mitigated the relationship between math anxiety and performance.

Results of the meta-analysis was a moderate negative relation between math anxiety and performance for both elementary and secondary students, the higher the math anxiety, the lower the math performance. This relationship was found to be affected by dimensions of math anxiety, difficulty of math performance, and perceived importance of math performance.

Stronger  negative correlation was found with math performance when math anxiety measures used included both affective (negative physical and emotionality) and cognitive (negative thoughts) dimensions.

Math anxiety was found to be more greatly negatively associated with multi-step math performance then basic math performance.  Additionally, math anxiety was more negatively associated with math performances that affected grades.

Results of the meta-analysis indicate that math anxiety exists even in elementary grades and that teachers and parents should be on the lookout to identify and provide intervention in younger children.

The researchers conclude their findings provided most support for the bidirectional theory.

Reflections

The finding that math performance is more strongly affected by advanced mathematics skills compared to basic math skills, points to the possible increasing importance of math anxiety and effects on math performance as the complexity of math skills increases over time. Increased complexity in math skills required over time may create a feedback loop reinforcing math anxiety. 

This finding indicate that interventions need to not just focus on math anxiety but also on remedying math skills together in order to be successful. Additionally, the finding that math anxiety is more strongly negatively related to math performance that affects grades points to the consideration for math anxiety intervention to not only be  behavioral (e.g.relaxation, modeling) but also cognitive (e.g. worry, preoccupation with performance)  aspects of math anxiety.

How might this research impact grading and assessment practices within the field of math education? 

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