Mathematics competency and situational mathematics anxiety: What are the links and how do these links affect teacher education programs?

Year: 2012

Author: Cooke, Audrey, Hurst, Chris

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The issue of mathematics anxiety of teachers, whether they are pre-service, graduate or experienced, its causal factors, and its possible links to mathematical competence have long been of concern to mathematics educators. In addition, the potential of the effects of mathematics anxiety to be transmitted from teacher to student is part of such concerns. Hence it is in the interests of teacher educators to understand the nature of mathematics anxiety and connections that may exist between mathematics anxiety and mathematical competence. Mathematics anxiety can manifest in different ways for different situations, which in this study were working on mathematics activities, taking a mathematics test, and teaching mathematics. In addition, anxiety may be evident in differing amounts within the somatic, attitudinal, cognitive and mathematical knowledge domains. This study examines the connections between sitting a mathematics competency test and situational anxiety in a group of 47 pre-service teachers in their first year of study. Data were analysed by grouping the pre-service teachers into one of three groups based on their passing test score (a mark of 80–89% or a mark of 90% and above) or their having not sat the competency test. Results indicate that there were strong correlations between the three groups of pre-service teachers in their overall responses to the anxiety questionnaires. When data were considered in terms of the three situations and the domains, differences were evident in the responses of the three groups. The levels of mathematics anxiety within the somatic domain were higher for thinking about working in a group and lower for thinking about teaching mathematics than any of the other domains. The levels of mathematics anxiety within the attitude domain were fairly level over all situations. Apart from the situation of thinking about taking a test in mathematics in the somatic domain, pre-service teachers who had achieved 90% or above on the mathematics competency test had the lowest average anxiety levels in all domains for all situations. The knowledge and cognitive domains were similar, with all groups having the highest average anxiety levels for thinking about working in a group and thinking about teaching mathematics and lower average mathematics anxiety levels for taking a test. The implications of these results and the potential impact on teacher education programs are discussed.