Reducing Math Anxiety

Research Question Topic:

Reducing Math Anxiety in Gifted and Non-Gifted Learners

Dana E. K. Bjornson (nee Allingham)

February 9, 2015

The University of British Columbia


Formal studies surrounding mathematical anxiety did not occur until Richardson and Suinn developed the Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale in 1972, though field experts will attest to the existence of math anxiety long before we quantised it (Chernoff  & Stone, 2014).  Not only can math anxiety lead to errors and misconceptions in learning, researchers have found that it can lead to “global avoidance”, in which students will opt to avoid higher level math courses and careers that require math prerequisites (Ashcroft & Krause, 2007).  For some students, anxiety can be the predecessor of depression, which can be accelerated for those students who have been identified as gifted, as they have special qualities that make them unique compared to their non-gifted counterparts (Bakar & Ishak, 2014).

Having been a classroom math teacher since 1998, I routinely deal with math anxiety issues that include, but not limited to, students not being able to ask clarifying questions, not being able to perform on tests, and in extreme cases, not being able to attend school.   As an undergrad student, I experienced two panic attics during final exams, making math anxiety a very personal topic.  As a classroom teacher, I also assume the role of frontline counselor.   Sometimes I will be the conduit for a student to get professional guidance; other times I will be the person to be implementing the guidance.  Generating a research proposal in this area will not only lead to anxiety reducing techniques in my own practice, but ideally within the practice of other math teachers at my school, as well.

I wish to examine anxiety reducing techniques in both the gifted and the non-gifted for two main reasons:

  1. I teach in both Regular and Gifted programs and know from experience that students of all varieties experience math anxiety.
  2. Gifted learners often have high incidents of specific stressors in their lives such as having overbearing parents, higher levels of goal setting, and unrealistic expectations from their teachers, compared to their non-gifted counterparts (Baker & Ishak, 2014). I predict, however, that due to their superior cognitive ability and perfectionistic tendencies (Chen & Wong, 2014), that the gifted group will experience a higher rate of decrease in math anxiety, when exposed to an assortment of anxiety reducing techniques.


The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between pre-existing levels of math anxiety and levels of math anxiety, post-exposure to anxiety-reducing techniques amongst gifted and non-gifted, Grade 10 students.

Research Question

What is the correlation between gifted and non-gifted, Grade 10 students’ levels of math anxiety at the beginning of their math course compared to at the end of the course, after being exposed to a variety of anxiety reducing techniques throughout the semester?


Abu Bakar, A. Y., & Ishak, N. M. (2014). Depression, anxiety, stress, and adjustments among malaysian gifted learners: Implication towards school counseling provision. International Education Studies, 7(13), 6. doi:10.5539/ies.v7n13p6

Ashcraft, M. H., & Krause, J. A. (2007). Working memory, math performance, and math anxiety. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14(2), 243-248. doi:10.3758/BF03194059

Chen, C. P., & Wong, J. (2013). Career counseling for gifted students. Australian Journal of Career Development, 22(3), 121-129. doi:10.1177/1038416213507909

Chernoff, E. J., & Stone, M. (2014). An examination of math anxiety research. Gazette – Ontario Association for Mathematics, 52(4), 29.

Richardson, F. C., & Suinn, R. M. (1972). The mathematics anxiety rating scale: Psychometric data. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 19(6), 551-554. doi:10.1037/h0033456


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