Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Donald J. Dessart

Committee Members

John Bradley, Ken McCullough, Paul Wishart


Mathematics educators and psychologists blame "math anxiety" for affecting mathematics learning, performance, and enrollment, and, subsequently, choice of college major and career. Researchers have yet to agree on prevalence, stability, and effects of math anxiety.

This study (1) investigated the prevalence and intensity of math anxiety in college students (as a whole, by major, and by sex), (2) determined the stability of math anxiety over time, and (3) investigated those background and experimental factors related to its occurrence in college students, using data gathered on 173 college students in mathematics, education, and English classrooms. The data concerned college students' math anxiety as measured by the Revised Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale (RMARS) and selected cognitive correlates of math anxiety, and were analyzed by analyses of variance, t-tests, and correlational analyses.

Based upon the statistical analyses, these results were achieved: (1) math anxiety is related to choice of college major, (2) males and females do not differ in math anxiety levels, (3) math anxiety levels change little over a short time interval, (4) math anxiety shows relatively little relationship to mathematics performance, (5) math anxiety shows a moderate relationship to mathematics background, achievement, and avoidance, and (6) the higher one's level of math anxiety (as measured by the RMARS), the lower one's self-rating of mathematics ability and the higher one's self-rating of mathematics anxiety.

Based upon the results, these conclusions were drawn: (1) improving mathematics performance will require programs that do more than reduce math anxiety, (2) re-entry students would appear to benefit most from treatment of math anxiety, (3) math anxiety appears to be related to inherent mathematical abilities of students, (4) the RMARS seems to adequately measure one's level of math anxiety as perceived by oneself for all groups except for the Technical Majors enrolled in Precalculus Mathematics, (5) sex-related differences in math anxiety may exist, but are probably much smaller than suggested previously, and (6) the reduction of math anxiety in the Technical Majors Groups could be attributed primarily to the unique elements of these groups: course content, prerequisites, and position in the sequence.

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