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Exploring the Relationship Between Math Anxiety, Working Memory, and Experiences

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Mathematics Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Mathematics

Page Count

14

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37157

Download Count

18

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Paper Authors

biography

Luke A. Duncan Clemson University

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Luke Duncan is a doctoral student in the Engineering and Science Education Department at Clemson University. His background is in mathematical sciences and mathematics education. Luke's primary research interests include math anxiety and student success in higher education. He is currently involved in projects surrounding the topics of transfer student success, cognitive and symbol load, math anxiety, and qualitative research methods.

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Karen A. High Clemson University

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Dr. Karen High holds an academic appointment in the Engineering Science and Education Department (ESED) at Clemson University. Prior to this Dr. Karen was at Oklahoma State University where she was a professor for 24 years in Chemical Engineering. She received her B.S. in chemical engineering from University of Michigan in 1985 and her M.S. in 1988 and Ph.D. in 1991 in chemical engineering both from Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Karen’s educational research emphasis includes faculty development and mentoring, graduate student development, critical thinking and communication skills, enhancing mathematical student success in Calculus (including Impact of COVID-19), and promoting women in STEM. Her technical research focuses on sustainable chemical process design, computer aided design, and multicriteria decision making. She also has extensive experience in K-12 STEM education and program evaluation and assessment. She has held a variety of administrative positions: 1) Director of STEM Faculty Development Initiatives-Clemson, 2) Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences-Clemson, 3) Interim Director of Student Services-Oklahoma State University, 4) Coordinator of the Women in Engineering Program-Oklahoma State University, and 5) Director of the Oklahoma State University Measurement and Control Engineering Center-Oklahoma State University.

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Kaileigh A. Byrne Clemson University

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Dr. Byrne is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Clemson University. She received her B.S. in Biology and Psychology in 2012 from Trinity University and her Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience in 2017 from Texas A&M University. Her research focuses on reinforcement learning, decision-making, and individual differences in cognitive functioning. Her work examines how factors such as anxiety, personality traits, aging, and performance pressure affect learning and decision-making outcomes.

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Rachel Nicole White Clemson University

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Rachel White is an undergraduate student at the Clemson University Honors College, majoring in Bioengineering with a concentration in Biomaterials. She has aspirations of continuing her education by attending medical school and studying immunology. She is interested in using the problem-solving skills that she has developed in her undergrad career and applying them to health and medicine.

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Abstract

Math anxiety has been described as “a feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear that interferes with math performance” (Ashcraft, 2002). Math anxiety is all too common in classrooms and can be a barrier to students reaching their fullest potential by limiting their career paths (Ashcraft and Krause, 2007; Tobias, 1993). What contributes to math anxiety? How can we alleviate math anxiety in the classroom? Studies have shown there are multiple factors which influence the formation and existence of math anxiety such as working memory, math experiences, and the student’s interpretation of experiences (Ashcraft and Kirk, 2001; Carey et al., 2016; Ramirez et al., 2018; Herts and Beilock, 2017), but how do these relate with each other? Is this effect different for those with lower working memory than those with higher working memory? This work emerged from a larger, ongoing study of transfer students in Engineering and Computer Science and was conducted with students in a Calculus I course at a Research I university. As evidenced from this and other work, Calculus I has been shown to be a gatekeeper course for STEM degrees. Furthering our understanding of math anxiety and strategies to alleviate it in the classroom may help to break down barriers to students’ success in STEM programs. In this study, we seek to (1) understand how students with differing math anxiety levels and working memory levels interpret math experiences and (2) identify teaching strategies and math experiences that can be used for math anxiety intervention. We will be using a concurrent embedded mixed methods research design wherein a qualitative case study is embedded in a quantitative correlational study. Surveys were distributed to Calculus I students in the Fall 2020 semester. The survey included (1) the Abbreviated Math Anxiety Scale (AMAS) test to assess math anxiety, (2) the Operation Span (OSPAN) test to assess working memory capacity, and (3) a math experience questionnaire. Four groups of students were identified according to high/low AMAS scores and high/low OSPAN scores. Students were recruited from each of these groups for a semi-structured interview. The interview prompts were constructed to explore both positive and negative math experiences along with the amount of significance students attribute to these experiences. This paper is a work in progress. We are also piloting this design to help inform future projects and a new conceptual framework for math anxiety. We are interested in hearing feedback from interested colleagues concerning the study design and hope to connect with others who may help us further understand the nature of math anxiety.

Duncan, L. A., & High, K. A., & Byrne, K. A., & White, R. N. (2021, July), Exploring the Relationship Between Math Anxiety, Working Memory, and Experiences Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37157

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