Choking under pressure: Linking math anxiety with math performance

  • Jonsson, Bert (Principal Investigator)
  • Korhonen, Johan (Co-Principal Investigator)
  • Nyroos, Mikaela (Co-Principal Investigator)
  • Eklöf, Hanna (Co-Principal Investigator)
  • Wiklund-Hörnqvist, Carola (Co-Principal Investigator)
  • De Smedt, Bert (Co-Investigator)
  • Sammallahti, Ellen (Co-Investigator)
  • Finell, Jonatan (Co-Investigator)

Project Details


Mathematics is for many pupils associated with anxiety which, in turn, affects their math performance. The view has been that math anxiety hampers math performance by depleting working memory resources needed to perform the math tasks. The few studies that have investigated the math anxiety- math performance link in lower secondary school students are inconclusive, suggesting that the “math anxiety hampers math performance through working memory” explanation is too simplistic. We argue that strategy use and task demands, respectively, are critical and overlooked factors for math anxiety and math performance, in addition to working memory. The project will longitudinally investigate the math anxiety–math performance link, in grade 3 to grade 5 students. We will also experimentally investigate the relationship between students’ strategies and task demands with measures of math anxiety and working memory. Moreover, we will conduct an intervention aiming at reducing math anxiety in anxious students by implementing an evidence-based learning technique, denoted as retrieval practice. This novel combination will answer our research questions:-Does high math anxiety cause poor math performance, or the other way around or is this relationship reciprocal?-To what extent do students’ working memory, strategies, and task demands interact with math anxiety and influence math performance? -Can we reduce math anxiety by implementing retrieval practice as a stress-reducing intervention?
Effective start/end date01/01/1931/12/23

Collaborative partners


  • math anxiety
  • math performance
  • working memory