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Too Afraid to Learn The role of math anxiety in cognition, and what you can do about it Cristina Post, Ed.M. MathAffect www.mathaffect.com The role of.

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Presentation on theme: "Too Afraid to Learn The role of math anxiety in cognition, and what you can do about it Cristina Post, Ed.M. MathAffect www.mathaffect.com The role of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Too Afraid to Learn The role of math anxiety in cognition, and what you can do about it Cristina Post, Ed.M. MathAffect The role of math anxiety in cognition, and what you can do about it Cristina Post, Ed.M. MathAffect

2 Research in Affective Neuroscience Learning, attention, memory, decision making, and social functioning are all controlled by emotion People whose emotional centers are damaged cannot make rational decisions Learning, attention, memory, decision making, and social functioning are all controlled by emotion People whose emotional centers are damaged cannot make rational decisions Immordino-Yang and Damasio, 2007 Physical ReactionsHigh Reason

3 What is Math Anxiety? State anxiety (vs. trait anxiety) only present when doing math Different components of math anxiety: Affective - general fear of or dislike of math Social/performance - board work in front of class, small group work with peers Test anxiety State anxiety (vs. trait anxiety) only present when doing math Different components of math anxiety: Affective - general fear of or dislike of math Social/performance - board work in front of class, small group work with peers Test anxiety

4 Math Anxiety Math Anxiety: Decreased performance stems from conscious worry over an expectation of high performance level Stereotype Threat: Decreased performance due to unconscious negative effects from an expectation of low performance level Math Anxiety: Decreased performance stems from conscious worry over an expectation of high performance level Stereotype Threat: Decreased performance due to unconscious negative effects from an expectation of low performance level

5 Ages of Onset 93% of American adults self-identify as being bad at or disliking math Three major ages of onset (Hembree, 1990) : Grades 1-3 are more likely to present with stereotype threat (Beilock et al, 2010) 93% of American adults self-identify as being bad at or disliking math Three major ages of onset (Hembree, 1990) : Grades 1-3 are more likely to present with stereotype threat (Beilock et al, 2010) 4 th – 6 th 9 th – 10 th College

6 Causes of Math Anxiety Math anxious teachers in elementary (and sometimes middle) schools Teaching techniques Anxiety modeling Increased demand on working memory, beginning in fourth grade A vicious cycle of poor learning and heightened anxiety Math anxious teachers in elementary (and sometimes middle) schools Teaching techniques Anxiety modeling Increased demand on working memory, beginning in fourth grade A vicious cycle of poor learning and heightened anxiety

7 How does MA affect learning? Math anxiety interferes with verbal working memory, the phonological loop Working memory is the system in the brain that keeps things in mind while performing complex tasks: reasoning, comprehension, learning (Baddeley, 2010) Math anxiety interferes with verbal working memory, the phonological loop Working memory is the system in the brain that keeps things in mind while performing complex tasks: reasoning, comprehension, learning (Baddeley, 2010)

8 Working Memory Phonological Loop Visuo-spatial sketchpad Episodic Buffer Central Executive Long term Memory Adapted from Baddeley, 2010

9 8 + 3

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14 Working Memory and Math Working memory is taxed by mental arithmetic: carrying, borrowing Highly anxious people do worse on tasks that require working memory capacity Controlling for anxiety and taxing working memory reveals the same effect WM is NOT involved in rote memory tasks like retrieving simple math facts (Ashcraft, 2002) Working memory is taxed by mental arithmetic: carrying, borrowing Highly anxious people do worse on tasks that require working memory capacity Controlling for anxiety and taxing working memory reveals the same effect WM is NOT involved in rote memory tasks like retrieving simple math facts (Ashcraft, 2002)

15 Why do we care? STEM careers: fastest growing jobs, & 78% of growth over the last decade was in computer and math fields Accountability (Ashcraft & Moore, 2009) : after anxiety onset in 4-5th grade, standardized tests are no longer an accurate measure of math ability Remediation of math anxiety is associated with over a twenty percentile point gain on standardized tests (Ma, 1999) STEM careers: fastest growing jobs, & 78% of growth over the last decade was in computer and math fields Accountability (Ashcraft & Moore, 2009) : after anxiety onset in 4-5th grade, standardized tests are no longer an accurate measure of math ability Remediation of math anxiety is associated with over a twenty percentile point gain on standardized tests (Ma, 1999)

16 What can we do about it? Pre-K – Grade 3 An ounce of prevention… Preservice teacher training to reduce math anxiety in teachers Harness positive emotion toward math learning through storytelling and games An ounce of prevention… Preservice teacher training to reduce math anxiety in teachers Harness positive emotion toward math learning through storytelling and games

17 What can we do about it? Grades 4 – 8 The Mathematics Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC; Chiu & Henry, 1990) Begin each year with a traditional transmission style classroom before beginning more unfamiliar techniques Group interventions are not effective Teachers as counselors (Furner & Duffy, 2002) Use math mentors – older students, tutors The Mathematics Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC; Chiu & Henry, 1990) Begin each year with a traditional transmission style classroom before beginning more unfamiliar techniques Group interventions are not effective Teachers as counselors (Furner & Duffy, 2002) Use math mentors – older students, tutors

18 What can we do about it? Grades 9 – 12 The shortened Math Anxiety Rating Scale (sMARS; Alexander & Martray, 1989) Systematic desensitization combined with cognitive restructuring Rephrasing negative internal dialogue Support with post-exam appraisals Convert feelings of anxiety from threat to challenge Traditional talk therapy The shortened Math Anxiety Rating Scale (sMARS; Alexander & Martray, 1989) Systematic desensitization combined with cognitive restructuring Rephrasing negative internal dialogue Support with post-exam appraisals Convert feelings of anxiety from threat to challenge Traditional talk therapy

19 Teaching Techniques Model a positive attitude towards math Emphasize that everyone makes mistakes, which are just opportunities for learning Use varying types of assessment, and do not assess too often Use methods that are fun and engage positive emotion, like storytelling and games Model a positive attitude towards math Emphasize that everyone makes mistakes, which are just opportunities for learning Use varying types of assessment, and do not assess too often Use methods that are fun and engage positive emotion, like storytelling and games

20 Teaching Techniques Provide clear goals and feedback Offer choices between tasks whenever appropriate Scaffold challenge carefully to improve student confidence When using social interaction to teach, ensure that it is cooperative, not competitive Provide clear goals and feedback Offer choices between tasks whenever appropriate Scaffold challenge carefully to improve student confidence When using social interaction to teach, ensure that it is cooperative, not competitive

21 Resources for using storytelling in the classroom Schiro, M. (2004). Oral Storytelling & Teaching Mathematics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Zazkis, R. & Liljedahl, P. (2009). Teaching Mathematics as Storytelling. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. Schiro, M. (2004). Oral Storytelling & Teaching Mathematics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Zazkis, R. & Liljedahl, P. (2009). Teaching Mathematics as Storytelling. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

22 Resources for using games to teach math Grades 1-3: Kaye, P. (1987). Games for Math. New York: Pantheon Books iplaymathgames.com Grades 1-3: Kaye, P. (1987). Games for Math. New York: Pantheon Books iplaymathgames.com

23 Math Anxiety Resources Post, C. (2010). Too Afraid to Learn: The role of math anxiety in learning and what you can do about it. Available online soon at mathaffect.com Tobias, S. (1993). Overcoming Math Anxiety. New York: Norton & Company. Zazlavsky, C. (1999). Fear of Math: How to Get Over It and Get On with Your Life. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Post, C. (2010). Too Afraid to Learn: The role of math anxiety in learning and what you can do about it. Available online soon at mathaffect.com Tobias, S. (1993). Overcoming Math Anxiety. New York: Norton & Company. Zazlavsky, C. (1999). Fear of Math: How to Get Over It and Get On with Your Life. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

24 References Alexander, L., & Martray, C. (1989). The development of an abbreviated version of the mathematics anxiety rating scale. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 22, Ashcraft, M. (2002). Math Anxiety: Personal, Educational, and Cognitive Consequences. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11(5), Ashcraft, M., & Moore, A. (2009). Mathematics anxiety and the affective drop in performance. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 27(3), Beilock, S., Gunderson, E., Ramirez, G., & Levine, S. (2010). Female teachers math anxiety affects girls math achievement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(5), Chiu, L., & Henry, L. (1990). Development and validation of the mathematics anxiety scale for children. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 23(3), 121. Hembree, R. (1990). The Nature, Effects, and Relief of Mathematics Anxiety. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 21(1), Immordino-Yang, M. H., & Damasio, A. (2007). We feel, therefore we learn: The relevance of affective and social neuroscience to education. Mind, Brain, and Education, 1(1), Ma, X. (1999). A meta-analysis of the relationship between anxiety toward mathematics and achievement in mathematics. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 30(5), Alexander, L., & Martray, C. (1989). The development of an abbreviated version of the mathematics anxiety rating scale. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 22, Ashcraft, M. (2002). Math Anxiety: Personal, Educational, and Cognitive Consequences. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11(5), Ashcraft, M., & Moore, A. (2009). Mathematics anxiety and the affective drop in performance. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 27(3), Beilock, S., Gunderson, E., Ramirez, G., & Levine, S. (2010). Female teachers math anxiety affects girls math achievement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(5), Chiu, L., & Henry, L. (1990). Development and validation of the mathematics anxiety scale for children. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 23(3), 121. Hembree, R. (1990). The Nature, Effects, and Relief of Mathematics Anxiety. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 21(1), Immordino-Yang, M. H., & Damasio, A. (2007). We feel, therefore we learn: The relevance of affective and social neuroscience to education. Mind, Brain, and Education, 1(1), Ma, X. (1999). A meta-analysis of the relationship between anxiety toward mathematics and achievement in mathematics. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 30(5),

25 Too Afraid to Learn The role of math anxiety in cognition, and what you can do about it Cristina Post, Ed.M. MathAffect The role of math anxiety in cognition, and what you can do about it Cristina Post, Ed.M. MathAffect


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