A longitudinal multi-method approach to understand the early development of math anxiety
Effective Years: 2023-2028
Proficiency in math is ever important in a society that increasingly relies on science and technology. Yet, a diverse range of negative emotions may develop to impede math learning. Math anxiety is such a negative math emotion that it is of great concern to researchers and educators. Students with math anxiety experience feelings of fear and apprehension in math-related activities. These students often have lower math achievement and lower participation in math-related careers compared to students without math anxiety. Math anxiety is not only highly prevalent in the student population, but it also emerges early in education, which may have broad and enduring negative impacts on math learning. The goal of this project is to better understand the early development of math anxiety, with a focus on identifying which students are at risk and when they are at risk. The project will also study what personal and family-level factors may elevate or reduce the risk for early math anxiety development. The knowledge generated from this research is intended to inform parenting practices and interventions that aim to promote a positive math learning climate.
Research is needed on how math anxiety develops over time, to support a capacity to identify at-risk students early on and understand math anxiety growth patterns. To address these issues, this project will employ a multi-method approach in a multi-wave longitudinal design to provide comprehensive and in-depth knowledge of the development of math anxiety across the first three elementary school years. First, this project will use a six-wave longitudinal design spanning across the first three years of formal schooling in conjunction with advanced longitudinal modeling to provide critical insights into the average trend, heterogeneity, and timing in early math anxiety development. Second, by integrating survey-based, observational, and dyadic physiology data, this project will examine how the cumulative year-to-year changes in the early home math learning environment predict the long-term development of math anxiety. The project will explore moment-to-moment changes in parents' emotional displays and physiology during parent-child math interactions to help predict real-time fluctuation in math anxiety. Finally, cognitive assessments and questionnaires will be used to collect information on a diverse range of child- and parent-level factors in the socio-motivational, affective, and cognitive domains, to provide an in-depth investigation of the individual and environmental processes in the early development of math anxiety. Overall, this project will make critical contributions to the scientific understanding of the early development of math anxiety in school-aged students.
This project is supported by NSF's EDU Core Research (ECR) program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in the field. Investments are made in critical areas that are essential, broad and enduring: STEM learning and STEM learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and STEM workforce development.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.