Cognitive and emotional mathematics learning problems in primary and secondary school students
University of Cambridge
Department of Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
MetadataShow full item record
Devine, A. (2017). Cognitive and emotional mathematics learning problems in primary and secondary school students (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.13972
This thesis systematically examined the link between developmental dyscalculia, a specific learning difficulty of mathematics, and mathematics anxiety, a negative emotional reaction to mathematics tasks. The link between these maths learning issues was examined by measuring their prevalence in large samples of English primary (N = 1004; N= 830) and secondary school (N = 927) students. Gender differences were also explored. Systematically varying diagnostic criteria for dyscalculia revealed that its prevalence ranged between 0.89-17.23 percent. When absolute performance thresholds were used, there was no gender difference in dyscalculia prevalence. The association of mathematics performance with other cognitive skills and mathematics anxiety was investigated longitudinally in subsamples of children with dyscalculia (n =10), typical mathematics performance (n=10) and high maths ability (n = 11). 80 percent of the children in the dyscalculia group still met the criteria for diagnosis at the final time point. Mathematics performance was positively associated with working memory performance and negatively associated with mathematics anxiety. Furthermore, children with dyscalculia had higher maths anxiety than the other two groups. The relationship between dyscalculia and high maths anxiety was estimated in a larger sample (N = 1757). Relatively few children with dyscalculia had high maths anxiety and the majority of students with high maths anxiety in fact had mathematics performance within or above the average range. Girls had higher maths anxiety than boys, and more girls had both dyscalculia and maths anxiety than boys. There was an expected negative correlation between maths anxiety and maths performance in the total sample, but this correlation was negligible in the children with dyscalculia. Collectively, these results suggest that cognitive and emotional mathematics problems are dissociable, and indicate that children with dyscalculia and maths anxiety likely require different types of intervention. Furthermore there appears to be no gender difference in maths performance or in the prevalence of dyscalculia. However, girls have higher maths anxiety than boys, and are more likely to be affected by maths anxiety alongside developmental dyscalculia. Maths anxiety may be a potential explanation for the underrepresentation of females in careers involving mathematics.
Developmental dyscalculia, mathematics anxiety, mathematics learning disability, gender differences, mathematics performance, reading performance
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.13972
All Rights Reserved, Figure 3 in Chapter 1 (p 32) is republished in the printed copy of the thesis with permission of Paul H. Brookes, from Is math anxiety a mathematical learning disability? Mark H. Ashcraft, Jeremy A. Krause, Derek R. Hopko, in Why is math so hard for some children?: The nature and origins of mathematical learning difficulties and disabilities, 2007; permission conveyed through Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. These permissions were granted for the print version of the thesis only (and permissions statement placed below the figure on p 32). The open access version of the thesis will be redacted as permissions were not granted for republishing this figure online. • The data analysed in Chapters Two and Three of the thesis was published in: o Devine, A., Soltész, F., Nobes, A., Goswami, U., & Szűcs, D. (2013). Gender differences in developmental dyscalculia depend on diagnostic criteria. Learning and Instruction, 27, 31–39. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2013.02.004. As a journal author, I retain rights to include the above article in full or part in a thesis (provided that this is not to be published commercially), without needing to obtain specific permission from Elsevier. • Some of the findings, figures, tables, and text presented in Chapters Five and Six have been published previously and require the following credit line which is also provided in the preface of the thesis and footnotes on the first pages of these chapters: Copyright © 2017 by the American Psychological Association. Reproduced with permission. The official citation that should be used in referencing this material is Devine, A., Hill, F., Carey, E., & Szűcs, D. Cognitive and emotional math problems largely dissociate: Prevalence of developmental dyscalculia and mathematics anxiety, Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/edu0000222. The use of APA information does not imply endorsement by APA. No further reproduction or distribution is permitted without written permission from the American Psychological Association.
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