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Regulating Math Anxiety and Improving Math Performance: A Review of Intervention Research

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Abstract

Math anxiety as a stressful reaction to interacting with mathematics is a common problem in education and is highly prevalent across the globe. Moreover, math anxiety is negatively correlated with math performance. Researchers are looking for promising ways to mitigateits negative association by designing and testing various interventions. This article presents a review of intervention research aiming at regulating students’ math anxiety. The findings revealed that interventions may be classified into two types: (1) behavioral interventions, and (2) interventions focusing on improving math knowledge and skills. The article further provides an overview of interventional studies that examined the effect on both math anxiety and math performance. It includes the identification of primary characteristics of the studies,and also the effects of interventions. The findings are discussed in terms of the present state in the field of math anxiety, particularly its potential regulation or treatment.
237
Alsu Shakmaeva
University of Warsaw, Poland
e-mail: a.shakmaeva@uw.edu.pl
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6208-9248
Regulating Math Anxiety and Improving
Math Performance: A Review of Intervention
Research
http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/PBE.2022.011
Abstract
Math anxiety as astressful reaction to interacting with mathematics is acommon problem
in education and is highly prevalent across the globe. Moreover, math anxiety is negatively
correlated with math performance. Researchers are looking for promising ways to mitigate
its negative association by designing and testing various interventions. is article presents
areview of intervention research aiming at regulating students’ math anxiety. e findings
revealed that interventions may be classified into two types: (1) behavioral interventions,
and (2) interventions focusing on improving math knowledge and skills. e article further
provides an overview of interventional studies that examined the effect on both math anxiety
and math performance. It includes the identification of primary characteristics of the studies,
and also the effects of interventions. e findings are discussed in terms of the present state in
the field of math anxiety, particularly its potential regulation or treatment.
Keywords: math anxiety, math performance, interventions, treating anxiety, improving math.
Przegląd Badań Edukacyjnych
Educational Studies Review
ISSN 1895-4308
nr 36 (1/2022), s. 237–259 METAANALIZY
BADAŃ
EDUKACYJNYCH
238
METAANALIZY BADAŃ EDUKACYJNYCH
Introduction
ere is no doubt that the quality of math education determines the scientific
and technical development of each country. Math education has ameaningful
role for every individual as well. Ameta-analytical study of six longitudinal
data sets, which estimated the relationship between school readiness and
later school performance, shows that early development of math abilities is
acorrect prerequisite for achild not only being good at math in the future
but also excelling in other school subjects (Duncan, et al., 2007). However,
the importance of math skills does not disappear aer graduation. Compe-
tence in math opens up many career opportunities in science, technology,
engineering, and math (STEM). However, people deliberately avoid choosing
majors in math-related areas (Ahmed, 2018). One of the reasons for this is
math anxiety.
Math anxiety is defined as “afeeling of tension, apprehension or fear
that interferes with math performance (Ashcra, 2002, p. 181). is state
manifests itself directly when interacting with math or with numbers. Math
anxiety prevents from concentrating on current mental activity, and may also
cause feeling restless and tense, sweating, having arapid heartbeat, and other
symptoms.
Many studies indicate that math anxiety is consistently associated with
poor math performance (Wigfield & Meece, 1988; Hembree, 1990; Ma, 1999;
Namkung et al., 2019; Zhang et al., 2019; Barroso et al., 2021). In some works
math performance is understood as ameasure of student achievements in
math or subjects with high math content. Wherein measuring achievement
uses overall classroom performance and results from standardized tests.
Whether math anxiety is aprecursor or aconsequence of cognitive
problems is difficult to answer (Carey et al., 2015; Namkung et al., 2019).
One thing is clear – the math curriculum is hierarchically organized, and
the level of complexity is constantly increasing. erefore, studies show that
as achild grows up, as the knowledge load increases then math anxiety and
math performance begin to have the most significant correlation (Wigfield
& Meece, 1988; Hembree, 1990; Ma, 1999; Zhang et al., 2019). is trend
is observed concerning interest and attitude toward math which also tend
to deteriorate over time (Hidi & Harackiewicz, 2000). Recent studies have
Alsu Shakmaeva Regulating Math Anxiety and Improving Math Performance
239
indicated that math-related unpleasant emotions are also common in ele-
mentary school children (Dowker et al., 2012; Wu et al., 2012; Namkung etal.,
2019; Zhang etal., 2019). However, the relationship between math anxiety
and math performance at an early age has not been established. erefore,
it can be assumed that students who are anxious about math try to avoid
situations related to math, and as aresult, they receive less practice (Hembree,
1990; Meece, et al., 1990; Ashcra, 2002; Choe et al., 2019). However, other
studies indicate that initial low math abilities are the cause of subsequent high
levels of math anxiety among students (Ma & Xu, 2004), and increasing the
complexity of the curriculum only contributes to aclearer manifestation of
this effect.
Despite the difficulties in understanding the full picture of the develop-
ment of math anxiety, much attention is paid to the design of interventions in
this matter. While there are not many studies, there are already some results
that may shed light on which direction to move in and what research still
needs to be done.
is review article has two primary purposes. e first is to attempt to
find out what types of interventions researchers suggest for the regulation of
math anxiety. e second aim is to summarize the main findings of recent
intervention studies that examined the effect on both math anxiety and
math performance. is article begins with abrief description of the main
controversies raised in discourses on the causal relationship between math
anxiety and math performance. Following that, an overview of the methods
for reducing math anxiety is provided, which are grouped into two main
types: (1) behavioral interventions, and (2) interventions focusing on im-
provement of math knowledge and skills. Finally, some recent interventions
are described in terms of their effectiveness in the regulation of math anxiety
and improvement of math performance.
Theoretical background
Math anxiety and math performance
Students with high levels of math anxiety are not motivated and unsure of
their math skills, they try to avoid math lessons. ereby they do not give
themselves achance to get higher education and build acareer that requires
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METAANALIZY BADAŃ EDUKACYJNYCH
math knowledge (Hembree, 1990; Meece et al., 1990; Ashcra, 2002; Choe
etal., 2019). Various studies support the fact that math anxiety is consistently
associated with poor math performance (Wigfield & Meece, 1988; Hembree,
1990; Ma, 1999; Namkung et al., 2019; Zhang et al.; 2019; Barroso, et al., 2021).
Students from grades 6–12 participated in the research of Wigfield and Meece
(1988). Authors found that math anxiety is almost uncommon for 6 graders
and reaches its peak around the 9 grade, and aer that, it stabilizes. Ame-
ta-analysis of Hembree (1990) that included participants from grades 6 to 12
and college students showed similar results. In ameta-analysis by Ma (1999),
it was found that starting from grade 4, if the level of math anxiety is lower,
then the performance in math is better, and vice versa. e level of math
anxiety rises with age when children move from childhood to adolescence.
Alongitudinal study found that two-thirds of 11-year-olds consider math as
their favorite subject, but only afew 16-year-olds like it (Blatchford, 1996).
Blatchford (1996) points out that these kinds of results were observed since
math was considered adifficult subject and students felt incompetent.
Amore recent meta-analysis by Namkung and colleagues (2019) that
included elementary and middle school students showed that math anxiety
can go hand in hand with math performance from early childhood. However,
other research (Zhang et al.; 2019) indicates that the negative association
between math anxiety and math performance is stronger in middle and high
school and the weakest in elementary school. Ameta-analysis by Barroso and
colleagues (2021) is consistent with earlier findings – there is asignificant
correlation between math anxiety and math performance that begins in child-
hood and continues into adulthood. Research claims that anxiety is inherent
even in children of elementary school age. ese results are areflection of
the fact that earlier research was carried out with older students (middle and
high school, university level), and only recently there has been an increase in
interest in defining this phenomenon at early school age. However, the results
are contradictory, and cannot assert if there is aconnection between math
anxiety and math performance at the elementary school level.
It is very difficult to determine in what sequence math anxiety manifests
itself and the performance deteriorates. Is it the case that poor performance in
math leads to math anxiety? Or does math anxiety lead to poor performance?
ere are competing theories on this issue: deficit theory (Tobias, 1986),
Alsu Shakmaeva Regulating Math Anxiety and Improving Math Performance
241
debilitating anxiety model or cognitive interference theory, and reciprocal
theory (Carey et al., 2015; Namkung et al., 2019).
e idea behind deficit theory is that poor performance in math leads
to higher levels of math anxiety (Tobias, 1986). Support for this theory has
mainly been demonstrated in studies with students experiencing learning
disabilities (for instance, dyscalculia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD)), and also in longitudinal studies (Carey et al., 2015). According
to this theory, math anxiety develops gradually and affects this difficulty in
understanding mathematical concepts or/and memories of poor results in
math, etc.
e debilitating anxiety model, also known as cognitive interference
theory, has the opposite meaning – precisely having math anxiety affects
subsequent performance in math (Carey et al., 2015). In this case, students
with high levels of anxiety try to reduce or eliminate various math-relat-
ed situations (Hembree, 1990; Ashcra, 2002). is causes the students to
deprive themselves of the opportunity to study math which decreases their
performance.
Cognitive interference theory is associated with working memory theory
(Ashcra & Kirk, 2001; Ashcra & Krause, 2007; Eden et al., 2013). Working
memory (WM) is ashort-term memory system that is needed to process
current tasks. With ahigh level of anxiety, working memory resources can
be used not for solving aspecific problem, but for thinking about worries.
For instance, thoughts about what others might think if the problem will be
solved incorrectly, etc.
Overall, studies provide mixed results on the causal relationship between
math anxiety and math performance. erefore, Carey and colleagues (2015)
suggested that instead of trying to choose between the two previous theories,
the most plausible theory seems to be the reciprocal theory (Carey et al., 2015).
e idea behind this theory is that poor performance triggers math anxiety,
and math anxiety leads to poor performance in atask-related situation.
Methods for regulating math anxiety
Nowadays, interventions are being developed to reduce math anxiety and
its negative impact on math performance. In general, interventions can be
classified into three main categories: (1) behavioral interventions or methods
242
METAANALIZY BADAŃ EDUKACYJNYCH
for treating anxiety; (2) interventions focusing on improvement of math
knowledge and skills; (3) neuropsychological stimulation methods (Sarkar
et al., 2014). is article covers the first two categories.
Treating anxiety
e first attempts at regulating math anxiety were made by Suinn and Rich-
ardson in 1971. ey presented the results of astudy on the introduction of
specific training to treat math anxiety and improve results in math-related
tasks (Suinn & Richardson, 1971). e first group underwent treatment by
anxiety management training (AMT). AMT is atreatment based on the re-
duction of anxiety reactions through relaxation and positive emotions. e
second group of students underwent treatment by standard desensitization
(SD). SD is atype of behavioral therapy developed by Joseph Wolpe (1968).
e results showed asignificant decrease in the level of math anxiety in the
first and second groups of students. However, only the group treated by SD
showed more positive dynamics in math-related tasks.
SD treatment has shown good results in studies of math anxiety (Hembree,
1990; Zettle, 2003; Akeb-urai et al., 2020). Zettle (2003) tested the effectiveness
of two methods: (1) acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and (2) SD.
e author concluded that indeed the level of math anxiety decreased with
both treatments. However, no improvement in math performance was found
with any treatment. Akeb-urai and colleagues (2020) obtained significant
results in both reducing the level of math anxiety and increasing the level of
math performance when using DS behavioral therapy.
Samuel and Warner (2021) tested the effectiveness of two mixed methods
mindfulness and growth mindset on regulating math anxiety and evaluating
the self-effectiveness of college students (Samuel & Warner, 2021). e results
of the study showed that this combined approach not only reduced math
anxiety, but also increased students confidence in their self-effectiveness when
interacting with math. Another study also lead to amulti-component inter-
vention that included: self-directed learning, mindfulness breathing, humor,
comic strips, and the use of self-coping statements when solving math prob-
lems (Collingwood & Dewey, 2018). Twelve 45-minute sessions over 4 weeks
of this intervention improved math performance and self-regulation, but did
not significantly affect students’ math anxiety and math self-concept.
Alsu Shakmaeva Regulating Math Anxiety and Improving Math Performance
243
e creation of comic strips as acognitive-behavioral intervention was
also tested in alater study (Fernandez & Lina, 2020). Acomic strip is aform of
art therapy used in the treatment of anxiety disorders. is qualitative study
involved a14-year-old student with very low grades in math and significant
anxiety during quizzes and tests. With the help of comic strips, the student
had to describe the scenario of passing the test in math. Such therapy allowed
the student to become aware of his sensitivity to time, describe his feelings of
anxiety, and identify specific strategies at certain stages of the test.
Studies have found that controlling negative feelings about math can be
achieved through expressive writing. Park and colleagues (2014) conducted
an experiment in which university students were asked to write openly about
their thoughts and feelings about an upcoming math test (Park et al., 2014).
e results showed asignificant improvement in math scores for students
with high levels of math anxiety that effectively narrowed the performance
gap (measured by test scores) between them and students with low math
anxiety levels. e authors point out that the positive effect of expressive
writing is to free up working memory (WM), the resources which are spent
on thinking about the worries about the upcoming test or exam. Howev-
er, Ganley and colleagues (2021) did not find similar results by testing the
effectiveness of several well-known methods, one of which is also writing
an expressive letter. e authors even noted that students in the expressive
writing condition reported higher levels of anxiety (Ganley et al., 2021).
Integrating writing and math, or more specifically journaling, in math
courses, has also been tested as atool to reduce math anxiety and improve
the ability to learn calculus (McCarty & Faulkner, 2020). e Writing Across
the Curriculum (WAC) program was offered to university students in acal-
culus course as an aid for summarizing topics learned and asking questions.
Overall, the weekly entries during one semester were positively received by
the students; it also helped most students learn calculus and worry less. In
general, this experiment could be attributed to the category of methods for
improving math as well. However, in the study, the journals were precisely
“reflexive, concerning the students experiences, rather than mathematical
concepts.
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METAANALIZY BADAŃ EDUKACYJNYCH
Improving math
One effective method for reducing math anxiety is to strengthen basic math
skills. Studies show that strengthening basic skills can not only reduce math
anxiety, but also improve math performance. It is an important point since
the problem of math anxiety is considered precisely in the context of poor
math performance. e experiment of implementation of an intensive eight-
week one-to-one cognitive tutoring program (Supekar et al., 2015) is aprime
example. e experiment involved elementary school students (3 grade),
who for eight weeks studied with atutor according to an adapted math
program MathWise (Fuchs et al., 2013). is program aims to improve the
knowledge of numbers and increase the speed of the efficiency of counting
and the application of computational strategies. e results showed that
children with high levels of math anxiety experienced significant reductions
in anxiety aer tutoring.
Another study examined the impact of peer tutoring on students math
anxiety levels (Moliner & Alegre, 2020). e study involved 420 students
in grades 7–9. e authors concluded that peer tutoring for middle school
students is very beneficial. Precisely, because mutual learning took place in
agroup of students of the same age, this contributed to adecrease in the level
of their math anxiety. Also, the authors noted that such mutual learning is
easier to organize since the students study in the same class.
Tok (2013) in his study tested the know-want-learn (KWL) strategy on 6
graders’ to improve their math achievement, metacognitive skills and math
anxiety. is strategy was developed by Ogle (1986) and aimed at teaching
students to read and work with text. Later it began to be used in teaching
various school subjects. KWL strategy was used as an auxiliary tool for
solving math problems. Expectedly, the author has found that applying the
KWL strategy in the 6 grade math class is effective in improving student
achievement in math. However, the KWL strategy has little effect on math
anxiety and was no more effective than traditional teaching methods.
As presented above, previous research has demonstrated the efficiency
of cross-subject connections (reading and math) in improving academic
performance. Another example of the use of this method is the introduction
of the history of mathematics in the classrooms of math (Lim & Chapman,
2015). Students of the 11 grade took part in this experiment. History of
Alsu Shakmaeva Regulating Math Anxiety and Improving Math Performance
245
mathematics was presented as atool to improve students math performance,
motivation, and attitude, and to reduce math anxiety. Analysis of the results
of the intervention showed aminimal short-term effect on affective measures
and asignificant long-term positive effect on math performance.
e use of computer technology is being studied in terms of improving
math abilities and developing motivation and interest in learning. e impact
of tools such as video games, mobile apps, e-books, etc. on the regulation
of math anxiety is also being investigated. Researchers used an adapted
educational game Number Sense Game (NSG) to develop early computa-
tional abilities in elementary school children (Vanbecelaere et al., 2021). is
study also involved asecond group of children that engaged in asimilar
educational game but in anon-adaptive version. Athree-week intervention
showed interesting results. Math anxiety decreased in children who used
an adaptive version of the game, and similar results were demonstrated by
students from the group with anon-adaptive educational game. In terms
of academic performance, adaptive learning turned out to be more effective
for students whose knowledge was already at ahigh level. Conversely, the
non-adaptive method helped those students whose level of knowledge was
low in the preliminary testing.
Research finds alink between the math anxiety of parents and the sub-
sequent academic performance of their children. Berkowitz and colleagues
(2015) presented the interventional study of learning math at home with par-
ents using aspecially designed mobile application (Berkowitz et al., 2015). e
idea is to improve students performance in school and reduce parents anxiety
about math. Researchers suggested that joint math classes of achild and apar-
ent at least once aweek can improve student performance. As was shown by
the results of an experiment conducted during one academic year, the abilities
of students using this application improved significantly. e researchers also
noted that when parents study math with their children, they can overcome
their math anxiety. e authors point out that ashort, high-quality commu-
nication between parents and children in math at home helps to break the
vicious circle of low achievement in math, passed down from generation to
generation. However, the improvement in math performance can be seen as
an effect of additional exercises that have helped students perform better and
parents understand that they do not have to worry about the math.
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METAANALIZY BADAŃ EDUKACYJNYCH
Methods
Since math anxiety affects math performance, the purpose of this part of
the study is to summarize the main findings of recent intervention studies
that have examined their effectiveness in the reduction of math anxiety and
improvement of math performance. us, adescription of the basic features
of the included studies and the effects of the intervention were presented
here. Moreover, the papers were also evaluated for methodological quality
using assessment criteria proposed by Dalemans et al. (2008).
Search strategy
According to abibliometric analysis of publications in various databases of
the Web of Science, the growth of interest in the issue of math anxiety oc-
curred in 2012 (see Figure 1, Ersozlu & Karakus, 2019). erefore, to explore
recent research, it was decided to include interventional studies published
from the beginning of 2012 to August 2021 (the time of the search in the
electronic databases).
Figure 1. Records of Publications [Ersozlu & Karakus, 2019]
Source: Inspired by Ersozlu & Karakus, 2019.
Alsu Shakmaeva Regulating Math Anxiety and Improving Math Performance
247
To identify all relevant studies, asearch was performed using the follow-
ing combinations of terms: (“math anxiety” OR “mathematical anxiety” OR
“mathematics anxiety”) AND (“treatment” OR “intervention” OR “regulating”
OR “reducing” OR “teaching method” OR teaching strategy” OR “instruc-
tional design”) in databases such as Web of Science and Scopus.
Inclusion/exclusion criteria
Not every paper with those keywords was suitable enough for this study.
erefore, all found articles were additionally checked against the following
criteria: (a) math anxiety and math performance were measured. Studies that
measure only math anxiety or only performance in math were excluded, as
well as their measurement with other variables such as motivation, learning
behavior or self-efficacy, etc.; (b) interventions using neuropsychological
stimulation methods were excluded since their use in the educational pro-
cess is not possible; (c) participants’ educational level was from elementary
school to university. All theoretical and review articles were excluded. e
studies published in alanguage other than English were excluded. Finally, 15
experimental studies were included in this study.
Coding procedure
e articles that met the criteria were then systematically coded, using acod-
ing sheet developed for the aim of this part of the study. First, the general
information about the studies, such as author(s), year of publication, and
country were described. Second, each article was analyzed based on sam-
ple size and educational stage, interventions (duration and type), and their
effectiveness in the regulation of math anxiety and improvement of math
performance. Moreover, all studies were divided regarding intervention ap-
proach (behavioral interventions, interventions focusing on improving math
knowledge and skills).
Results
Acomplete summary of the included studies’ characteristics and outcomes
(author(s), year of publication, country, sample, interventions, and their ef-
fects on math anxiety and math performance) are shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Summary of basic characteristics and outcomes of the included studies
Studies Participants Interventions Effectiveness
Behavioral Interventions
No. Author(s) Publication
Year
Country
of Study
No. of
Partici-
pants
Educatio-
nal Stage Duration Type Math Anxiety Math Performance
1. Brunyé, et al. 2013 USA 36 University 2 hours for
each test
session
(1) Focused
breathing;
(2) unfocused
breathing;
(3) worry exercise.
Focused breathing reduced
distressing feelings and frees
up cognitive resources.
All exercises helped highly anxious students
perform a little better on arithmetic tasks.
The more significant results were found
after performing a focused breathing
exercise.
2. Park, Ramirez
& Beilock
2014 USA 80 University 7 min Expressive writing Expressive writing helped to
free up WM from anxious
thoughts.
The method contributed to improving
math-anxious students’ test scores.
3. Akeb-urai,
Kadir & Nasir
2020 Malaysia 65 College Six weeks Systematic
desensitization
The intervention demonstrated
a significant reduction in math
anxiety.
Treatment increased the level of students’
math performance.
4. McCarty &
Faulkner
2020 USA 30 (20
analyzed)
University One
semester
Writing across the
curriculum (WAC)
6 students found it helped
them to be less anxious (5
students gave a negative
answer, and the rest were
neutral or did not answer).
17 students felt it helped them to learn (3
answered negatively).
5. Passolunghi,
De Vita &
Pellizzoni
2020 Italy 224 Elementary
school (4th
grade)
Eight
weeks
Math anxiety training Math anxiety training helped
to reduce math anxiety.
Training did not affect students’ math
performance.
Studies Participants Interventions Effectiveness
Behavioral Interventions
No. Author(s) Publication
Year
Country
of Study
No. of
Partici-
pants
Educatio-
nal Stage Duration Type Math Anxiety Math Performance
6. Ganley, et al. 2021 USA 300 College 5 min or
less for one
of the
interven-
tion
(1) Reappraisal as
a challenge;
(2) reappraisal as
excitement; (3)
expressive writing;
(4) look ahead.
None of the interventions
affected reports of state
anxiety. Students in the
expressive writing condition
reported higher levels of state
anxiety.
The interventions did not affect math
performance.
Interventions Focusing on Improving Math Knowledge and Skills
1. Jansen, et al. 2013 Nether-
lands
207 Elementary
school
(3th-6th
grades)
Six weeks Computer-adaptive
practice with
a pre-set success rate
(Math Garden)
Math anxiety decreased
equally for children in
experimental groups and
control group.
Math performance increased more for the
experimental group in the condition with
the highest success rate.
2. Tok 2013 Turkey 55 Elementary
school (6th
grade)
Eight
weeks (4h/
week and
a total of
32h)
Know-Want-Learn
(KWL) strategy
The strategy was not effective
in reducing students’ math
anxiety.
The strategy was effective in increasing
students’ math performance.
3. Lim &
Chapman
2015 Singapore 103 High school
(11th grade)
Seven
months
History as a tool to
teach math
The intervention demonstrated
short-term minimal effects.
A highly significant short and long-term
effects were observed.
4. Núñez-Peña,
Bono &
Suárez-Pelli-
cioni
2015 Spain 166 University Academic
year
Formative assessment
system
The authors concluded that
highly math-anxious students
gained confidence in their
ability to learn the subject
after the intervention.
Students who consider feedback classes to
be useful received higher exam grades.
Table 1. (continued)
Studies Participants Interventions Effectiveness
Behavioral Interventions
No. Author(s) Publication
Year
Country
of Study
No. of
Partici-
pants
Educatio-
nal Stage Duration Type Math Anxiety Math Performance
5. Supekar,
et al.
2015 USA 28 Elementary
school (3rd
grade)
Eight
weeks
One-to-one cognitive
tutoring
The intervention obtained
a significant reduction in math
anxiety.
Students’ math performance was improved
after the tutoring.
6. Tok,
Bahtiyarb &
Karalök
2015 Turkey 42 Elementary
school (6th
grade)
Six weeks
(4h/week
and a total
of 24h)
Teaching math
creatively
The intervention had a positive
result in a reduction of math
anxiety
The applied method increased students’
math performance.
7. Turel & Sanal 2018 Turkey 94 University Four weeks ARCS based e-book The e-book had a significant
effect on reducing students’
math anxiety.
Students using the e-book performed
significantly better on the math test.
8. Chen 2019 Taiwan 82 Elementary
school (6th
grade)
Six weeks Mobile Augmented
Reality (AR)
Students who used mobile AR
had less anxiety than those
who did not use mobile AR.
AR improved students’ ability in math
(algebra and geometry).
9. Passolunghi,
De Vita &
Pellizzoni
2020 Italy 224 Elementary
school (4th
grade)
Eight
weeks
Math strategy
training
Math strategy helped to reduce
math anxiety.
The strategy contributed to the improve-
ment of math performance.
10. Vanbecelae-
reet al.
2020 Belgium 84 (78
analyzed)
Elementary
school (1st
grade)
Three
weeks
Number Sense Game
(NSG) (1) adaptive
digital educational
game; (2)
nonadaptive digital
educational game.
In both conditions, children’s
math anxiety scores were
lower after the training.
The first condition was more effective than
the second. In particular, (1) effective for
children with high prior knowledge, and (2)
effective for children with low prior
knowledge.
Source: Author’s research.
Table 1. (continued)
Table 2. Studies’ quality assessment
No. Study/Author Informativity External Validity Internal Validity Overall
a b c d e f sum g h i j sum k l m n o sum
1. Jansen, et al. (2013) + + + + + + 6 + + + 3 +++++ 5 14
2. Tok (2013) + + + + + + 6 + + + 3 +++++ 5 14
3. Lim & Chapman (2015) + + + + + + 6 + + + 3 +++++ 5 14
4. Supekar, et al. (2015) + + + + + + 6 + + + 3 +++++ 5 14
5. Tok, Bahtiyarb & Karalök (2015) + + + + + + 6 + + + 3 +++++ 5 14
6. Passolunghi, De Vita & Pellizzoni (2020) + + + + + + 6 + + + 3 +++++ 5 14
7. Ganley, et al. (2021) + + + + + + 6 + + + 3 +++++ 5 14
8. Brunyé, et al. (2013) + + + + + + 6 + + + 3 + + + + 4 13
9. Núñez-Peña, Bono & Suárez-Pellicioni (2015) ++++++ 6 –+++ 3 + + + + 4 13
10. Turel & Sanal (2018) + + + + + + 6 + + + 3 ++ + + 4 13
11. Chen (2019) + + + + + + 6 + + 2 +++++ 5 13
12. Akeb-urai, Kadir & Nasir (2020) + + + + + + 6 + + + 3++++– 413
13. Vanbecelaere, et al. (2020) + + + + + + 6 ++ + 3 + + + 312
14. Park, Ramirez & Beilock (2014) + +- + + + 5 + + 2 ++ + + 4 11
15. McCarty & Faulkner (2020) + + + + + + 6 + + 2 + + 2 10
Note: a – the purpose of the study is clearly described; b – the method of the data collection is properly described; c – the main outcomes to be measured are clearly
described in the introduction or methods section; d – the description of the characteristics of the population is sufficient; e – the response rate is 70%, or the information of
the no responders is sufficient; f – the main findings of the study are clearly described: simple outcome data should be reported for all major findings; g – the subjects asked
to participate are representative for entire population from which they were recruited; h – the inclusion and exclusion criteria are described; i –- the age range is specified;
j – the study period is described; k – the data are prospectively collected; l – a comparison group is used and properly described; m – the measurement instrument(s) is/
are described; n – the main outcome measures used are accurate (valid and reliable); o – age specific and gender specific outcomes are reported.
Source: Author’s research inspired by Dalemans et al., (2008).
252
METAANALIZY BADAŃ EDUKACYJNYCH
Table 2 presents the quality assessment of the selected studies ranging
from higher quality to lower quality on the assessment, in order of the
year. Assessment consists of 15 items corresponding to 3 aspects of studies:
informativity (6 items), external validity (4 items), and internal validity (5
items) (Dalemans et al., 2008).
Across the 15 studies, the sample sizes ranged from 30 to 300. Depending
on the number of methods examined in some research, the participants
were divided into groups. Since almost all studies use different treatments or
teaching methods, we cannot say anything about the relationship between an
interventions effectiveness and its sample size.
As mentioned before, asearch of studies was conducted across the level
of elementary school and university. It can be noted that interventions to
reduce anxiety responses were most oen carried out at the university or
college level. Whereas, strategies to improve math skills were mostly applied
in elementary school. Overall, more interventional studies that were found
employed math-improvement strategies.
Considering the country where the research was conducted, it must be
recognized that the leader in the study of the phenomenon of “math anxiety”
is the United States, which presented 5 interventions. According to the review
results, it can be observed that Turkey has conducted three intervention
studies. In general, this area of research has become quite popular nowadays,
however, it is still novel in some countries.
e duration of the interventions also varied across studies. In particular,
based on the information provided by the researchers, the duration of the
interventions ranged from 5 minutes or less to one academic year. Behavioral
interventions were generally less time-consuming than methods of improv-
ing math knowledge and skills. Methods that focus on improving math are
generally time-consuming, but differ depending on the instruments used.
An analysis of the researchers’ findings showed that most interventions
are effective in reducing math anxiety and improving math performance.
However, some results are contradictory, for instance, expressive writing in
one study had apositive effect on both reducing the level of math anxiety and
improving the results of the math test (Park et al., 2014). In another study, the
same method, on the contrary, led to an increase in the level of anxiety among
students (Ganley et al., 2021).
Alsu Shakmaeva Regulating Math Anxiety and Improving Math Performance
253
e quality assessment of studies that met the search conditions showed
that all 15 articles are quite informative. e sample size in all studies is rather
small, thus participants are not representative of the entire population from
which they were recruited. In general, the quality of studies does not differ
depending on the year of publication.
Conclusions
One of the purposes of this study was to find out what types of interventions
researchers suggest for the regulation of math anxiety. e results of the re-
view of articles showed that interventions can be divided into two categories:
(1) behavioral interventions, and (2) interventions focusing on improving
math knowledge and skills. e first category of methods is aimed at treating
anxiety or reducing anxiety reactions through achange of state of mind,
relaxation, breathing exercises, expressive writing, etc. e second category
of methods is aimed at improving knowledge in math through the use of
cognitive training programs, teaching strategies, mobile applications, adapted
digital books, educational digital games, etc.
e second purpose of the study was to summarize the impact of re-
cent intervention research on math anxiety and math performance. e
main finding demonstrated that the first category of interventions may not
always have apositive effect on math performance, but may reduce math
anxiety among students. e second category of interventions is mostly
equally beneficial in improving math performance as well as reducing math
anxiety.
Each category has its strengths and weaknesses. Interventions focusing on
math ability require more resources. Intensive cognitive programs with atu-
tor are rarely possible to organize for each student experiencing math anxiety.
Excessive use of computer technology steals alot of time and sometimes
distracts from the main idea of the lesson being studied. erefore, those
interventions that can be used in the natural educational process are of the
greatest interest to researchers and math teachers. Behavioral interventions,
on the contrary, most oen do not require alot of resources. Many techniques
can be used just before taking amath test to free up anxious thoughts from
working memory. However, if astudent has problems with understanding
254
METAANALIZY BADAŃ EDUKACYJNYCH
mathematical concepts, then behavioral interventions will not help to im-
prove his or her math knowledge and skills.
Considering these results, and the fact that the second category of
methods was used more oen, it can be assumed that the effect of math
performance on math anxiety seems to be more pronounced. However, we
still cannot clearly state which intervention was most effective for students.
Nevertheless, this literature review can demonstrate the main results of the
present state in the field of math anxiety, particularly its potential regulation
or treatment.
Future research should pay attention to pre-existing instructional methods
that had apositive effect on students math achievements but were considered
only in the context of academic performance, increasing cognitive interest, or
improving attitude towards math. Acombination of focusing on developing
math abilities (interest and attitude) and using behavioral treatment may be
perhaps the most promising intervention.
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The goal of our study is to take what previous research has reported as the benefit of pairing mathematics courses with writing across the curriculum initiatives and the inclusion of writing to learn activities, specifically journaling in calculus courses, and expand upon notions of student perceptions of the benefits of writing in math. Thus, the students in one of our Calculus 1 courses completed ten reflective journal entries, specifically summarizing topics learned and asking questions. Based on feedback in the last journal entry, we present results showing that student response to the journaling project was quite positive, with most the students indicating it helped them to learn calculus better, and about half indicating it made them enjoy the class more and/or have less anxiety. Last, journaling greatly increased communication between students and the professor, improving instruction and learning.
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Adaptive educational games provide new opportunities to train early numerical skills. However, empirical evidence for the effectiveness of adaptive educational games is scarce. This study investigated the effectiveness of an adaptive game compared to a nonadaptive game in terms of cognitive, noncognitive and efficiency outcomes. In total, 84 children were randomly assigned to a condition in which children trained early numerical skills with an adaptive version of the Number Sense Game (NSG), or to a condition in which they trained with a nonadaptive version. Early numeracy was evaluated before the training, immediately after the training and 3 weeks after the training. Math anxiety (MA) was assessed before and 3 weeks after the training. The time children practiced with the NSG was used to assess efficiency. Results revealed that children in both conditions improved on early numerical ability, with sustained effects 3 weeks after the training. In both conditions, children’s MA scores were lower after the training. Children in the adaptive condition learned more efficiently compared to the nonadaptive condition, and the interaction between prior knowledge and condition has shown that children with low prior knowledge benefited more from a nonadaptive training while children with high prior knowledge benefited more from an adaptive training in terms of learning efficiency. These results confirm that adaptive educational games can offer solace in terms of the need for differentiation.
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Math Anxiety (MA) is a specific feeling of tension generated by the manipulation of numerical stimuli in daily life and academic situations (Richardson & Suinn, 1972). This condition has significant repercussions on the individual’s life at personal, social, and economic level. Literature on the topic of MA alleviation, however, is still scarce. This study aims at contributing to this field by addressing MA prevention in school‐age children. We have developed two different training methods administered to two groups of fourth graders: 1) MA training focusing on identifying and copying with MA‐related feelings (N=76); and 2) Math strategy training focusing on supplementary exercises to enhance calculation strategies (N=76). We also carried out a Control training involving a range of activities, such as reading comic strips, describing characters in the story, and combining text and images to obtain an original narrative text (N=72). We evaluated the differential effects of these training methods on MA, general anxiety, and math achievement before and after the training. Results indicate that MA training contributes to a decrease in MA level, although it does not appear to affect math achievement; Math strategy training, on the other hand, results in far transfer on a reduction of MA level as well as near transfer on the improvement of math achievement. Data are discussed in terms of specific mechanisms underlying each type of training method, and with specific focus on the evaluation of educational and developmental opportunities linked to MA prevention and improvement of math abilities in school‐age children.