Partanen, Mari
(Helsingin yliopisto, 2018)
Objectives: Mathematical skills are important in the age of rapid technological development. Yet some individuals experience anxiety while facing mathematical tasks in school or in their everyday lives. Math anxiety may lead to avoiding mathematical situations and educational choices related to mathematics, which has both personal and societal consequences. According to theory of planned behavior and expectancy-value theory parental attitudes predict students’ self-concept, attitudes and achievement. These relations have been studied thoroughly for decades in the field of education psychology. The aim of this study was to examine how mathematical literacy, mathematical self-concept and parents’ perceived valuation of math predict the variation in math anxiety. The main objectives were to explore the relation between mathematical self-concept and math anxiety and how parental attitudes towards mathematics affect this relation. The intention was to shed light on how parents might contribute to their child’s mathematical skills and how they could relieve the child’s math anxiety.
Method: The data were collected by OECD for the PISA 2012 study from 15-year-old Finnish students. The data of the present study consisted of 8829 students. Mathematical skills were measured by the achievement in math tasks. Perceived parental attitudes, mathematical self-concept and math anxiety were assessed by self-report questionnaire including several items concerning each variable. Explorative factor analysis was used to explore the factor structure of the variables, while correlational analyses and hierarchical linear regression analyses were utilized to investigate the relations and interaction between them.
Results and conclusions: Students with negative mathematical self-concept were more likely to be more math anxious. The negative mathematical self-concept predicted a stronger math anxiety when the parents considered mathematics as a valuable and important subject. Students with positive mathematical self- concept experienced anxiety as well if the parents considered math to be valuable and important, but not as strongly as their more negative peers. Low math achievement predicted higher math anxiety, but in the end mathematical self-concept turned out to be a stronger predictor for math-anxiety. The results were consistent with previous literature. In reducing students’ math anxiety the parents have at least a small role, but their indirect impact may be stronger for instance through affecting the development of students mathematical self-concept.