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The Dynamics of Math Anxiety as it is Transferred through Peer and Teacher Interactions

This research develops a simple dynamical system framework to study the role of
social mechanisms on the prevalence of math anxiety in United States education systems.
Math anxiety is the self reported discomfort when attempting mathematical
problems. This feeling prevents students from pursuing careers in science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics in these fields. Female students are disproportionately
affected by math anxiety, leading to poor representation. Previous studies have examined
how teachers, with and without math anxiety, can “transmit” math anxiety to
students. However, to our knowledge no mathematical models have been developed
to thoroughly study long term intervention strategies for reducing transmission. In
this paper, the effects of female teachers’ math anxiety are modeled as a contagion
on female students who may become the next generation of teachers. The purpose
of this research is to determine intervention strategies to effectively reduce students’
math anxiety. From our sensitivity analysis we conclude that, instead of focusing on
professional development, math anxiety can be drastically reduced if teachers portray
more positive attitudes towards math, and colleges focus on recruiting non-anxious
math teachers.


Article Number: MTBI-14-05M



Arie Gurin - Eastern Washington University, Cheney, Washington

Guillaume Jeanneret - Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia

Meaghan Pearson - University of Missouri - Columbia, Columbia, Missouri

Melissa Pulley - Campbell University, Buies Creek, North Carolina

Armando Salinas - Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

Carlos Castillo-Garsow - Eastern Washington University, Cheney, Washington

PDF icon manuscript.pdf