Dr. Ganley and graduate student Amanda McGraw's new article about math anxiety was just published in the open access journal Frontiers in Psychology. This is Amanda's first publication! In this article, we report on the development and validation of a revised version of a children's math anxiety questionnaire (the Math Anxiety Scale for Young Children) for children in first through third grades.
You can read or download the full article here:
The key questions and findings of this article are:
1) How well do students understand math anxiety questions? We conducted this research project because we were unsure if young children understood questions from previous surveys that asked about math anxiety, like the Math Anxiety Scale for Young Children (MASYC). We found that there were 3 questions on the MASYC survey that many students did not interpret as intended. For example, for the item "Figuring out if I have enough money to buy cookies and a drink is fun", many students we interviewed answered based on whether they would want to buy cookies and a drink, and not whether they would want to do the math needed to figure out how much money they would need. Therefore, their responses were not related to math anxiety at all! We removed this item, as well as others that were misinterpreted, from the new version of the survey that we created. We now know that when students answer the questions, they are answering about math anxiety and not anything else.
2) How many early elementary school children have math anxiety? There was, unfortunately, a subset of students in all grades who could be identified as having high math anxiety. The survey that we gave measured math anxiety in three different ways. Some items were about the physiological aspects of math anxiety (e.g., Math gives me a stomachache), others were about the worry aspects of anxiety (e.g., I get worried when I don't understand something in math), and others were actually not anxiety, but confidence about math (e.g., I like doing math problems on the board in front of the class). We found that for first-grade students, 13% of students were high in the physiological aspects of anxiety, 33% were high in the worry aspects of anxiety, and 18% had low math confidence. It was similar at the other grades as well. This suggests that we need to be thinking about ways to intervene in students' math anxiety much earlier in development than previous interventions have sought to help (typically in middle school or beyond).
3) Is math anxiety related to math performance? We found small, but important, correlations between math anxiety and math performance. However, these relations appeared primarily for the third grade students, and not earlier in development, suggesting that math anxiety and math performance are related, but this relationship may not emerge until the third grade.
4) Is math anxiety related to other attitudes about math? We found that math anxiety was also related to the other attitudes that students have about math. This suggests that students with higher math anxiety tend to be less confident in their math abilities, be less interested in math, and think that math is less important.
5) Are there gender differences in math anxiety? At this age, we found some evidence that girls have higher levels of math anxiety than boys (as is often found with older children, adolescents, and adults). However, our results showed that this gender difference in math anxiety could really be explained by the gender difference in general anxiety. Therefore, at this age, it does not appear that math anxiety specifically is higher for girls than boys.