Paper Example on Overcoming Math Anxiety: Cognitive, Affective & Working Memory Models

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1654 Words
Date:  2023-02-23


Mathematics anxiety is becoming common in all classrooms and teachers are finding difficult to overcome that stress. Cognitive and affective are involved in solving mathematical problems. The working memory provides a theoretical framework for understanding the cognitive and affective models. Not only are students experiencing mathematics anxiety, but many teachers have the same anxiety and can make it a lot harder for them to teach the subject. Mathematics teachers are in high demand today and finding an educator who truly enjoys teaching is futile. There is a variety of researches done on mathematics anxiety and the things that correlate with the anxiety such as the teacher's beliefs, method of instruction, and the challenges that come with mathematics. Many of the research articles include methods used to identify mathematics anxiety in teachers and students as well as ways to overcome the anxiety and work through the challenges.

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KEYWORDS: Mathematics, Mathematics Anxiety, Mathematics Stress, Working Memory, Performance

Many schools put great importance in mathematics because it is one of the pillar subjects. However, Mathematics has become a challenging topic throughout schools, which has resulted in the concept of mathematics anxiety. In 1957, Dreger and Aiken introduced the concept of "number anxiety" to explain the increased focus of mathematics performance (Dowker, Sarkar, & Looi, 2016). Over the years, several studies have examined the idea of "number anxiety" and used it to study mathematics anxiety in students and teachers (Dowker, Sarkar, & Looi, 2016). When looking into the conceptual framework of mathematics anxiety, two dimensions, cognitive, and affective, manifest. Gresham (2017) stated that the cognitive outlook, also referred to as worry, is the concern about performance and consequences of failure in mathematics. The affective dimension also referred to as emotionality, is the tension and nervousness when taking the mathematics tests (Gresham, 2017). The working memory provides a framework for understanding cognitive and affective mechanisms in learning mathematics. Lack of teachers' consideration of different learning styles among students, teachers who do not like teaching mathematics, and disinterest in the subject by students are some of the causes of mathematics anxiety. Gresham (2017) stated that mathematics anxiety correlates with a student's academic success. For decades, researchers have studied mathematics and its relationship to nervousness, how it is measured, some possible factors, and treatment of the problem. Past research on mathematics anxiety provides the reasoning behind why mathematics creates so much stress among teachers and students, leaving schools scrambling to find mathematics teachers. This paper answers the research question: what are the mathematics anxiety levels in teachers and students? Qualitative and quantitative articles are used in the paper to build the literature review.

Discussion of the Key Terms

Mathematics Anxiety: A feeling of nervousness when thinking about or doing mathematics.

Mathematics Stress: Persistent worry about doing or thinking about mathematics.

Working Memory: a section of the short-terms memory that processes perception and language consciously.

Literature Review

Researcher's Definitions of Mathematics Anxiety

Many scholars have weighed in on their definitions of mathematics anxiety. Gresham (2017) defined anxiety as a feeling of uncertainty and uneasiness when asked to do mathematics. Also, Caviola, Carey, Mammarella, and Szucs (2017) describe math anxiety as a negative emotion that arises in math pressured situations. Besides, Henslee and Klein (2017) described math anxiety as a feeling of worry, which affects a student's mathematics performance. Further research demonstrated that math anxiety is the feelings of stress, apprehension, and negative attitudes that manifest when an individual takes mathematical computations in the classroom or a laboratory setting (Pizzie & Kraema, 2019). This literature review examines the dynamics of math anxiety among teachers and students.

The Pervasiveness of Mathematics Anxiety in Schools

Mathematics is one of the academic issues in the world. According to Gresham (2017), teachers and students both experience mathematics anxiety. In his study investigating mathematics anxiety change with teaching experience, the author found pre and in-service elementary teachers experience mathematics anxiety. Also, Emamjomeh and Bahrami (2015) indicated that many students see mathematics as an inflexible lesson and regard their teachers as strict and serious. Due to that, students develop anxiety and stress whenever it is time for a mathematics lesson. The authors examined mathematics anxiety among junior high students. In their study, they found that mathematics anxiety is higher in females more than males. Also, in a study by Khng (2016), boys were more likely than girls to reduce their anxiety levels during a mathematics task. Torres, Arnold, and Shutt (2017) mentioned that even in students who are capable of completing a mathematical task, anxiety impairs their performance in the subject.

Causes and Results of Math Anxiety

Researchers have attempted to answer a two-part question. (1) what causes anxiety related to math and (2) how does the anxiety limit the ability to perform mathematical equations? Gresham (2017) affirmed that even though it is impossible to provide an in-depth explanation of mathematics anxiety, it is believed that some of the causes include parents' and teachers' attitudes towards mathematics, low self-concept and the inability to handle frustrations. Pizzie and Kraemer (2019) noted that parents and teachers who have mathematics anxiety are more likely to have children who have the issue. As the authors explained, teachers and parents should at as role models in shaping the beliefs and attitudes that contribute to the cognitive and affective dimensions of mathematics anxiety. Further research by Caviola et al. (2017) demonstrated that time pressure causes mathematics anxiety. According to the authors, both adults and children who had pressure faced mathematics anxiety which made them unable to solve arithmetic and equations. According to the authors, if the time allocated to finish a particular mathematical task is limited, then pressure builds up, which in turn, creates anxiety. Another cause of mathematics anxiety is the inability of teachers to use and follow the method course. Gresham (2017) introduced this concept to define the instructional processes that teachers use to engage their students in mathematics classrooms. From teachers' comments in his article, it is clear that using the method course enabled both in-service and pre-service teachers to understand mathematics. Another cause of mathematics anxiety is inappropriate and incessant testing by teachers. According to Gresham (2017), teachers cause mathematics anxiety to students when they failed to use lesson plans and materials appropriately. Furthermore, Stoehr (2017) indicated that factors like the method of teaching mathematics, histories of low performance and weak mathematics backgrounds, lack of progressive experiences in mathematics classrooms, and negative outlooks towards mathematics cause mathematics anxiety.

Mathematics anxiety results in many problems. Pizzie and Kraemer (2019) affirmed that the anxiety of mathematics diminishes performance and understanding. According to the authors, if a student's anxiety levels increase, their ability of understanding and carrying out a mathematical task would be futile. More to the point, Gresham (2017) mentioned that anxiety limits problem-solving capabilities. The author emphasizes that problem-solving is significant promotes successful learning on the side of teachers and engagement on the students' part. Additionally, problem-solving engages students in the real and mathematical world.

How is Mathematics Anxiety Measured?

Researchers have used various tools to measure mathematics anxiety. Pizzie and Kraemer (2019) an Academic Anxiety Inventory (AAI) to test mathematics anxiety. In study 1, the authors disengaged things that autonomously measure every area of anxiety, diminishing the covering fluctuation between mathematics anxiety and other constructs, and figuring out which segments can or cannot be separated. in studies 2 and 3, the authors showed that the AAI is steady and solid for undergraduate and adolescent individuals. In Study 3, anxiety-related performance shortages in a secondary school mathematics class were related to the scores in the AAI-Math subscale. In Study 4, the AAI-Math subscale was related to perceptions of increased mathematical complexity, diminished estimations of exactness, and expanded negative emotions when members saw numerical articulations. the authors found that in the four studies, AAI is a dependable and legitimate measure of mathematics anxiety and other areas of academic anxiety.

Henslee and Klein (2017) conducted a study to find out whether brief guided imagery would reduce anxiety and improve mathematics performance. In their study, students measured mathematics anxiety using an online self-reported online survey tool called Revised Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale (MARS-R). The MARS-R has 24 items that measure mathematics anxiety and validates a coefficient alpha dependability estimated at .98 (Henslee & Klein, 2017). The authors added that the tool measures the highs and lows of students with mathematics anxiety.

Mathematics anxiety can be measured using Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scales-21 (DASS-21). In a study by Emamjomeh and Bahrami (2015), the researchers used DASS-21, an anxiety scale to autonomic arousal, effects on skeletal strength, conditional anxiety, and personal experience in anxious situations. The authors asserted that the DASS-21 questionnaire is effective and convenient for students in measuring anxiety.

Effect of Mathematics Anxiety on Working Memory

Working memory is an individual's ability to hold bits of information in short-term or conscious recollection. Every student uses their working memory when doing mathematical calculations. Shi and Liu (2019) affirmed that constant worrying thoughts limit working memory capacity in mathematics anxiety. The authors conducted a study to measure working memory capacity under a dysfunctional math-related context and working memory capacity under a valence-neutral context. Researchers used 61 students who had high mathematics anxiety and 61 students who had low mathematics anxiety. Participants performed simple tasks using a list of letters in short intervals and at the same time read and made judgments of sentences that described dysfunctional mathematics-related thoughts that talked about neutral facts of the world. Results from their study revealed that working memory capacity for letters under dysfunctional math-related contexts in proportion with working memory capacity performance under valence-neutral contexts was poor in students who had high mathematics anxiety. Results from their study show that mathematics anxiety affects working memory.

Another study, which shows the way mathematics anxiety affects anxiety is that by Torres, Arnold, and Shutt (2016). In their study, they incorporated visual pet stimuli on stress and mathematics performance. The researchers presented mathematics problems in the form of images of pets, images of desks, and color blocks placed vertically on the left side of a page. Results from their study showed that the high-school students had minimum stress levels when the m...

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