Date of Award
Master of Arts in Psychological Science
First Reader/Committee Chair
Math anxiety refers to a negative emotional response to math-related stimuli. Studies have found a negative correlation between math anxiety and math performance—as math anxiety increases, math performance decreases. According to Attentional Control Theory (Eysenck et al., 2007), anxiety impairs executive functions via depletion of working memory (WM) resources. Therefore, math anxiety affects math performance by consuming WM resources. Additionally, poor math performance is attributed to poor numerical processing (NP), which is the ability to estimate quantities. Recent research suggested that math anxiety affects arithmetic indirectly through working memory capacity (WMC) and NP, and that math anxiety affects numeracy—ratios, fractions, and proportional reasoning—indirectly through WMC (Skagerlund, Ostergren, Vastjall, & Traff, 2019). The present study aimed to further investigate these findings. We investigated the moderating effects of WMC and NP on the relationship between math anxiety and math performance (arithmetic and numeracy). We used the magnitude comparison task (i.e., numerical distance, ND) and the parity judgement task (i.e., compatibility effect) to measure NP. Additionally, we investigated whether the relationship between math anxiety and arithmetic might be mediated by WMC and NP (as measured by ND). We found that WMC and NP do not moderate the relationship between math anxiety and math performance, but that WMC and ND do mediate this relationship. We also showed that WMC and ND are negatively correlated. As WMC increase, ND decreases (i.e., better numerical magnitude representation). Furthermore, WMC was found to fully mediate the relationship between math anxiety and arithmetic. These results suggest that WMC may play a greater role in arithmetic than NP.
Olid, Pilar, "The Role of Numerical Processing and Working Memory Capacity on the Relationship Between Math Anxiety and Math Performance" (2020). Electronic Theses, Projects, and Dissertations. 974.