Younger students exhibited less anxiety overall than older students and tended to have more similar anxiety scores across the different measures, meaning that levels of general anxiety and academic anxiety were similar for a given student.
The prevalence and effects of math anxiety
Far more of the older students evidenced a high-anxiety profile, but were more likely to have one specific area of anxiety in which they rated more highly than the other areas. Girls were more likely to exhibit across-the-board anxiety, while boys were more likely to be highest in one specific area.
Consistent with the other studies, MA correlated moderately negatively with math test performance. However, the other two areas measured within the anxiety profile appeared to interact with the correlation in unexpected ways.
Finally, the Cambridge team conducted a qualitative study into the experiences and origins of math anxiety. They studied a small group of primary and secondary students with varying levels of MA and students without any signs of it. Interview questions covered a wide range of previous experiences with mathematics, and students also kept a diary documenting any memorable mathematics experiences that occurred over the course of the study period.
Differences in classroom experiences between students with and without MA fell into predicable patterns—with anxious students reporting high levels of negative feeling toward math and four times as many negative experiences. Division problems led the list of most problematic areas for students with high MA also a source of concern for students without it , followed by fractions, decimals, and percentages.
However, a variety of other factors emerged near the top. It is important to note that all of the students in the study had more or less the same experience with math—progression, specific assignments, and teachers—in their respective primary and secondary school careers. In that vein, the Cambridge team recommends several human-centric mitigation efforts.
Peers, too, should understand that the work itself is the most important part of math class, not comparisons between individuals. Though not a specific recommendation of the researchers, it stands to reason in the face of all this evidence that passing students along from math class to math class without mastery of concepts and skills—especially at the youngest ages—is a recipe for disaster.
Paul Erdos Facts
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After graduating with a B. After graduating, Blackwell was appointed to a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N. He subsequently applied to black colleges, assuming, he once said, that the doors were closed to blacks at non-black institutions.
After a one-year stint as a statistician in the U. By , he had become a full professor and head of the mathematics department, a position he held until While at Howard, Blackwell became interested in statistics after hearing a lecture by Abe Girshick, and the two collaborated for many years.
Blackwell developed an interest in the theory of games during three summers, between and , at RAND Corporation. There, he studied games of timing, as when two duelists approach one other with a loaded pistol, a type of problem that resonated with researchers during the Cold War.
He became a leading expert in the area. Even before Blackwell moved to Howard, Jerzy Neyman, the leading statistician at the time at UC Berkeley, had courted Blackwell to come to the campus, but had run into objections about his race.
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After World War II, however, the atmosphere throughout the country had improved, and Neyman was able to convince the mathematics department to hire Blackwell. Blackwell arrived in as a visiting professor and joined the statistics department as a full professor when the department split off from the mathematics department in He succeeded Neyman as chair between and and served as assistant dean of the College of Letters and Science between and ,. Although Blackwell retired in , he continued to visit the department until recently, talking with colleagues about statistical ideas, according to his son Hugo.