Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Sharon Spall, Director, Dr. Ric Keaster, Dr. William R. Schlinker

Degree Program

Department of Educational Administration, Leadership and Research

Degree Type

Specialist in Education


In this qualitative action research study, five lower-achieving freshman prealgebra students in a rural high school were interviewed about mathematics anxiety. The subjects ranged in age from 13 to 15 years and included three boys and two girls, of which one was Hispanic, one was African-American, and three were Caucasian. These students had tested below the fourth-grade level in mathematics during their eighth-grade year and were placed in special pre-algebra classes, which met for 30 additional minutes each day and progressed with more depth, but at a slower pace.

The researcher employed personal interviews to answer the research question: How do students describe and cope with mathematics anxiety? The researcher utilized the constant comparative method to analyze data and developed the following seven categories: setting and background information; self-image; mathematics difficulties; success in mathematics; support for learning; teacher support; and coping techniques, which was the context of the students’ anxiety. While they have encountered some success in mathematics, the descriptions of support from family and student friends, along with teacher support, explain how these students’ cope with the anxiety.

When the students talked positively about mathematics, they discussed activities that made mathematics fun or enjoyable. However, these participants also spoke of negative mathematics experiences as early as the first grade. A poor self-image, as it relates to a student’s mathematical knowledge, affects current learning. Past negative perceptions appeared to contribute to their defeat.

The findings coincided with previous research that mathematics anxiety is negatively related to mathematics achievement. Students reported gains from hands-on activities, facilitative teaching, teacher encouragement, additional assessments, and goal settings, but interview data suggested they had mostly given up on getting much better in mathematics, because they thought they were not going to succeed. They stopped trying and giving up was their way of coping.


Education | Science and Mathematics Education