If a car is driving at a speed of 40 miles per hour for a distance of 60 miles, how long will it take to reach its destination? Those who may feel apprehensive at answering this question may suffer from mathematics anxiety.

According to a new report featured in the journal Behavioral and Brain Functions, numerous school-age children feel anxious in mathematics. However, even though anxiety can impact the performance of both boys and girls, it is generally girls who tend to suffer more anxiety than boys.

Those suffering from mathematics anxiety feel uncomfortable with performing mathematics tasks. An anxiety of this sort is believed to affect a considerable percentage in both adults and children, which has a negative effect on their mathematic performance.

Cambridge University researchers from the UK decided whether mathematics anxiety has any effect on boys or girls mathematics performance and examined 433 British secondary school children, whom they controlled for a related condition, i.e. test anxiety which is generally not controlled for in mathematics anxiety studies.

They discovered that children with a higher mathematics anxiety have a reduced performance in mathematics, and that girls the level of mathematics anxiety is higher in girls than in boys, which makes the anxiety an important indicator of their performance. Researchers say despite having higher anxiety than boys, girls showed no differences in performing mathematics when compared with boys. This could mean that girls do have the potential to perform better in the subject if they would not feel so anxious about it. The results provide solid proof that secondary school children experience mathematics anxiety.

Leading researcher, Denes Szucs concluded on the study, saying:

“Mathematics anxiety warrants attention in the classroom because it could have negative consequences for later mathematics education, particularly as it is thought to develop during the primary school years.”

She continues saying that the reasons why only 7% of UK pupils in the UK study mathematics could potentially be due to mathematics anxiety and it could also be the reason as to why numbers of students who study mathematics are in decline.

Written by Petra Rattue