University of Leicester
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An Exploration of Maths Anxiety and Interventions in the Primary Classroom

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posted on 2020-07-15, 19:50 authored by Heidi R. Kirkland
Maths Anxiety has been defined as “feelings of tension and anxiety that interfere with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of ordinary and academic situations” (Richardson & Suinn, 1972, p.551). Research, such as Devine et al. (2012), has found that the likely age of onset occurs during primary school years, yet the majority of research has focused on adolescent or adult populations. Comparatively, there is minimal research that qualitatively explores children’s experiences of Maths Anxiety within the primary classroom, or the effect of interventions upon these. This qualitative research aimed to explore how primary school children experience Maths Anxiety and related interventions in-situ from an interpretivist worldview. Three participants’ (aged 8 – 10 years) experiences were explored. This research implemented instrumental case studies to: (1) explore how primary school children experience Maths Anxiety and (2) inform subsequent interventions that were tailored to their own experiences and based on Expressive Writing and Mathematical Resilience. This research also conducted evaluative case studies to identify whether the interventions had any effect on the experiences of Maths Anxiety. Qualitative analysis revealed key themes across three cases of Maths Anxiety. How these were manifested and recognised, however, differed for each participant. This suggests that exploring experiences in an in-depth manner highlights the individual nature of Maths Anxiety and how the experience may be illustrated in the primary classroom. The interventions also had varying effects across cases, again depicting a uniqueness to the experience.
These findings suggest that more research needs to be done through an interpretivist lens to heighten the field’s understanding of how Maths Anxiety is experienced and the possible effects of related interventions. This may improve understanding and action in the research field and within the primary classroom.



Janet Ainley

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of Education

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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