Reducing math anxiety during early elementary school:
An intervention based on cognitive tutoring versus a working memory training program
and their impact on number sense development

Young Teams Project number
Contract number 63/02.05.2018
Financing source: Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research, CNCS – UEFISCDI



Mathematics anxiety (MA) interferes with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems in ordinary life and academic situations, emerging at a very young age. The effect goes beyond generating academic underachievement, to severely limiting the engagement of the individual in a variety of STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)-related careers, leading to reduced employability and lower earnings later in life.

We aim to offer insight into the early interactions between MA and math performance, by investigating how MA interferes with the early development of number sense (fluidity and flexibility in dealing with numbers).

For the first time in the literature, we also aim to compare the attentional biases with the attentional control failures that children with high MA experience in processing numbers. The studies will also address for the first time in an extended Romanian sample:

• the specificity of MA in relation to other forms of anxiety (trait anxiety, test anxiety)

• the relation between self-report and psychophysiological measures of MA (cortisol secretion)

• possible early gender differences

• the role of parental MA in the interplay between children’s MA and their maths performance.




• Gaining insight into the directionality of the math anxiety– maths performance relation during early
school age;

• Investigating the developmental mechanisms involved in the development of number sense in relation to math anxiety and their amenability to intervention;

• Examining the early interrelationships between MA and other individual differences in trait anxiety and test anxiety;

• Finding the most adequate methods to investigate the early signs of math anxiety in children;

• Investigating early gender differences in both math anxiety and number sense;

• Investigating the relationships between early apprehension towards mathematics compared to anxiety towards other subjects, such as reading, writing or drawing;

• Investigating the role of parental math anxiety in relation to children’s math anxiety across time, and in relation to the efficiency of the training.



Our project will bring significant methodological, empirical, and conceptual advancements related to the emergence and early development of math anxiety in relation to maths performance in young children. The use of a longitudinal design can generate a complex picture of interrelations between children’s early number sense development and their math anxiety within an ontogenetic period marked by substantial developments in these dimensions. This will generate a deeper, mechanistic understanding of the causal influences between these variables.

The two proposed interventions will reveal whether the negative math anxiety-math performance relation can be influenced via tutoring or working memory training. They also represent valuable tools to be used within the classroom by educators, within the family by parents or by the children themselves. Targeting individual differences in attentional control/attentional biases, gender differences or parental influences can help modulate and adjust the interventions to the specific variables which might limit or enhance their efficiency.

Our results will be disseminated in the scientific community and they will be made available to educators and parents via seminars, in order to offer them the tools developed in the intervention programs.

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