School of Behavioral Sciences
Master of Science in Psychology (MS)
Mindfulness, Math anxiety, Growth mindset, Math performance, Classroom intervention, Mindfulness intervention
Murch, Hannah E., "Mindfulness to Reduce Math Anxiety and Improve Math Performance" (2023). Masters Theses. 1053.
Math anxiety, the negative emotional response to math, is a common educational issue observed globally and across many grade levels. Additionally, it negatively impacts math performance and constrains long-term math achievement. Anxious ruminations strain mental resources and encourage avoidance behaviors such as procrastination. The prevalence and detrimental influence of math anxiety necessitate that educators mitigate math anxiety’s negative impact in the classroom. Previous research suggests interventions emphasizing mindfulness, which is the intentional awareness of the present moment, can combat the ruminations of math anxiety. When complemented with interventions on growth mindset, which is the belief that intelligence can grow and change, educators can also enhance motivation and reduce avoidance behaviors. Mindfulness interventions have contributed to reducing math anxiety and improving math performance on isolated tests of math ability. However, research is lacking that thoroughly investigates the influence of a combined mindfulness and growth mindset intervention embedded in the classroom. The purpose of this mixed methods study is to evaluate the impact of a brief mindfulness and growth mindset intervention integrated into the classroom to benefit math anxiety, mindfulness, math performance, and student experiences in the course. This quasi-experimental project with a control group implemented a mindfulness and growth mindset intervention in which professors of statistics courses for psychology students led their classes through a video-based mindful breathing exercise and recited five positive affirmations at the beginning of each class. Participants (N=99) were assessed for their levels of math anxiety and mindfulness at three points in the semester. Additionally, professors of the courses reported students’ performance on homework, quizzes, and exams. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with some participants from the intervention and control group(N=10). Repeated measures analyses of variance were utilized to compare changes across assessments between the intervention group and control group. Independent and paired-samples t-tests further explored the intervention’s impact. Thematic analysis and comparison provided insight into the qualitative data. The intervention facilitated greater reductions in math anxiety and better maintenance of mindfulness levels compared to the control group. Additionally, the intervention benefited performance on moderate-stress assignments, such as quizzes, which subsequently benefited final grades. Thematic analysis further supports the intervention’s positive impact on the classroom. This study contributes to educational resources that educators can implement into their classrooms to address the socioemotional and academic needs of their students. Future research should aim to replicate the effects and investigate generalizing the intervention to other anxiogenic situations.