Probing the nature of deficits in math anxiety: Drawing connections between attention and numerical cognition

Orly Rubinsten, Hili Eidlin Levy, Lital Daches Cohen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter suggests a theoretical model in which environmental factors interact with intrinsic elements, particularly with the child's attentional resources, to increase the risk of developing math anxiety. It proposes that children with a predisposition to (general) anxiety, including maladaptive attentional resources, are at particular risk for developing math anxiety if they also experience environmental risk factors for math anxiety for example, in school, during extra-curricular activities, and within the child's family. It also proposes that these environmental and intrinsic (attentional bias) factors interact and lead to math anxiety as well as influence the individual's acquisition of numerical skills. The chapter demonstrates the following two points: (1) In some cases math anxiety is linked, at least during initial developmental stages, to symptoms that are known to be involved with general anxiety; and (2) Math anxiety is associated with distinctive patterns of processing (threat related attentional bias) of mainly personally relevant threat information that was previously experienced, learned, and memorized, leading these individuals to obtain negative attitudes towards mathematics. The chapter then shows that math anxiety is linked mainly to learned numerical information (but not to innate or core knowledge), suggesting a cognitive profile of threat related attentional bias. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMathematics anxiety
Subtitle of host publicationWhat is known and what is still to be understood
EditorsIrene C. Mammarella, Sara Caviola, Ann Dowker
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9780429199981
ISBN (Print)9780367190330, 9780367190392
StatePublished - 2019


  • *Cognitive Ability
  • *Environmental Effects
  • *Mathematics Anxiety
  • *Numbers (Numerals)
  • *Attentional Bias
  • Developmental Stages


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