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BACKGROUND: Children have been found to report and demonstrate math anxiety as early as the first grade. However, previous results concerning the relationship between math anxiety and performance are contradictory, with some studies establishing a correlation between them while others do not. These contradictory results might be related to varying operationalizations of math anxiety. AIMS: In this study, we aimed to examine the prevalence of math anxiety and its relationship with basic arithmetic skills in primary school children, with explicit focus on two aspects of math anxiety: anxiety about failure in mathematics and anxiety in math-related situations. SAMPLE: The participants comprised 1,327 children at grades 2-5. METHODS: Math anxiety was assessed using six items, and basic arithmetic skills were assessed using three assessment tasks. RESULTS: Around one-third of the participants reported anxiety about being unable to do math, one-fifth about having to answer teachers' questions, and one tenth about having to do math. Confirmatory factor analysis indicated that anxiety about math-related situations and anxiety about failure in mathematics are separable aspects of math anxiety. Structural equation modelling suggested that anxiety about math-related situations was more strongly associated with arithmetic fluency than anxiety about failure. Anxiety about math-related situations was most common among second graders and least common among fifth graders. CONCLUSIONS: As math anxiety, particularly about math-related situations, was related to arithmetic fluency even as early as the second grade, children's negative feelings and math anxiety should be identified and addressed from the early primary school years.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Educ Psychol

Publication Date





309 - 327


math anxiety, math anxiety assessment, mathematical skills, primary school