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Title: Exploring the impact of a mindfulness-based intervention in relation to primary school children's mathematics anxiety
Author: Henderson, D.
ISNI:       0000 0004 8498 1992
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2019
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Within educational establishments, mathematics anxiety (MA) is considered a widespread issue (Paechter, Macher, Martskvishvili, Wimmer & Papousek, 2017). Research indicates that MA can be present and develop in young primary school children (Harari, Vukovic and Bailey, 2013; Hunt, Bhardwa & Sheffield, 2017) and is more common in girls than boys in both primary and secondary education (Hill et al., 2016). MA can negatively impact upon an individual's mathematics performance and success, as well as their wellbeing. Furthermore, Punaro and Reeve (2012) believe that mathematics often causes greater anxiety than other academic subjects, and MA can turn into a permanent obstruction if not confronted (Rossnan, 2006). Consequently, MA negatively impacting on children's mathematics performance and wellbeing is likely to be of interest to schools, as are ways to lessen the impact of MA and thus improve mathematics standards and children's wellbeing (Zakaria & Nordin, 2008). A number of mindfulness based activities have been shown to help reduce MA, however research into mindfulness with children is less explored than with adults (Weare, 2013). Therefore, this highlighted the need for good quality research into MA and mindfulness as an intervention for primary school children, which this research sought to achieve. The main intention of this research was to establish whether a mindfulness-based-intervention (MBI) could reduce MA for primary school children, and was broken down into two phases. Phase 1 involved children taking part in regular mindfulness before mathematics lessons to see if mindfulness reduced MA over 30 sessions. Phase 1 also examined the fidelity of the MBI in each school. Phase 2 explored the views of highly mathematically-anxious children. A MA and self-efficacy (SE) scale were used to measure children's level of MA/SE pre- and post-MBI and were completed by both a control and intervention group in each participating school. The MBI was delivered to the intervention group through mindfulness-based videos. Observations were carried out to see how the MBI was implemented in each setting. Semi-structured interviews, with children deemed as highly mathematically-anxious, were conducted to discover more about children's individual MA and to evaluate the MBI. Data from the scales was analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). The findings from this illustrated that the MBI was effective in reducing MA in some children, although this was more pronounced in certain schools. These findings are discussed in more detail within sections 5.3 and 5.6. The observations of the MBI indicated differences in its implementation within each school's ethos and children's learning. The interview data was analysed using thematic analysis and established that highly mathematically-anxious children experienced a range of negative feelings towards mathematics, largely centred on worries, nervousness and anxiety. The children were able to discuss how these negative feelings impacted upon them and their learning as well as strategies they used (or attempted to acquire) in order to reduce these unwanted feelings. The implications for educational psychologists (EPs) were explored, as well as avenues for further research.
Supervisor: Norwich, B. ; Tunbridge, M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Maths ; Mathematics ; Anxiety ; Mathematics anxiety ; Mindfulness