Study: Math Brings Out Negative Emotions among Students

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. anxiety / æŋˈzajəti / (n) – feeling of fear or worry

    Her anxiety makes her feel nervous all the time.

  2. elicit / iˈlɪsɪt / (v) – to bring out a response from someone

    The bad news elicited violent reactions from the public.

  3. distress / dɪˈstrɛs / (n) – extreme pain or sorrow

    My father showed signs of distress when he thought I was getting kicked out of school.

  4. have butterflies in (one’s) stomach / hæv ˈbʌtɚˌflaɪz ɪn ˈstʌmək / (idiom) – a feeling of anxiety or nervousness

    I usually have butterflies in my stomach right before my teacher gives the results of our tests.

  5. hinder / ˈhɪndɚ / (v) – to delay or to slow down

    Our family’s lack of finances hindered my sister from graduating on time.


Read the text below.

A new study found that math anxiety elicits intense negative emotions from students.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge interviewed 2,700 primary and secondary students from the United Kingdom and Italy. The interviewees were asked questions about their sentiments toward math. They revealed that low grades, exam pressure, and competition with classmates cause them to experience negative feelings for the subject.

The study’s findings established that the students suffered from math anxiety, a condition wherein individuals’ negative feelings toward math result in behavioral problems and physical distress.

Researchers discovered that 10% of the students surveyed experienced negative feelings like anger, frustration, and desperation when dealing with math. The study also found that students viewed math as more difficult than other subjects. Because of this perception, students tend to have a lower or a total lack of confidence in the subject.

Students suffering from math anxiety also experienced physical symptoms such as having butterflies in their stomach, difficulty in breathing, and a racing heartbeat.

Surprisingly, researchers found that most students with math anxiety were not poor performers in the subject but rather normal to high achievers.

The researchers labeled math anxiety as a real concern and called upon educators to consider it a matter of importance. This is because such anxiety damages children’s learning and hinders their academic growth.

In addition, the researchers warned that teachers and parents should be aware of how they contribute to children’s math anxiety. According to the study’s authors, addressing parents’ and teachers’ own math-related anxieties could be the first step in helping children deal with their anxiety toward the subject.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you agree that math anxiety should be treated as a real concern? Why or why not?
• In your opinion, how can teachers and parents ease children’s anxiety toward math? Discuss.

Discussion B

• What other factors do you think can hinder a person’s academic growth (e.g. personal problems, lack of resources, poor teaching methods)?
• In what ways can these hindrances be addressed? Discuss.