Smith, Jamie and Fotou, Nikolaos
(2023)
Factor Composition of Mathematics Anxiety in Undergraduate Mathematics and Physics Students.
In: 12th Edition New Perspectives in Science Education, 16th17th March 2023, Florence, Italy.
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Abstract
Mathematics knowledge is necessary for academic success in many subjects like Physics and Chemistry and across all levels of education while also is an important thinking and problemsolving skill for efficient functioning in everyday life. However, research [1, 2] has shown nervousness and worry experienced when students across ages are faced with numerical problems during their education [2, 3] or adults in their everyday life [1]. This, in many cases, has been suggested to be the result of mathematics anxiety [4], a negative emotional reaction to mathematics that includes feelings of tension and nervousness that interfere with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems. The impact high levels of mathematics anxiety can have especially on students include decreased mathematics performance, confidence, and motivation [5, 6]. Highly maths anxious students also experience mathematics avoidance at multiple stages including avoidance of mathematics studies when given the option and choosing careers with fewer mathematics components [7, 8]. This mathematics anxiety and impact it has are not an uncommon phenomenon even among college and university students studying academic disciplines that are either primarily mathematical, or are considered branches/subfields of mathematics, or involve mathematics as an integral component of the programme of studies (which has been referred to as STEM or STEMrelated disciplines) [8]. This paper reports on the findings of a quantitative study examining this phenomenon of mathematics anxiety in university students studying mathematics and physics at an undergraduate level at a university in the UK. The purpose was to evaluate and test a mathematics anxiety measurement to identify barriers to the learning of mathematics at an undergraduate level. Factor analysis yielded a revised fourfactor model of mathematics anxiety comprising an evaluation component, a learning component, a social element, and a novel factor unique to specialist students being a routine component. Results show that mathematics anxiety remains a grave concern and barrier to learning mathematics and the natural sciences, even among undergraduate students, who have chosen to study STEMrelated degrees with a significant mathematics component. Findings also show that gender differences, often reported in studies with primary and secondary school students, remain consistent in specialist undergraduate students. Recommendations for targeted mathematics anxiety support are also reported.
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