Conference (November 2016)

Contemporary research in mathematics anxiety and emotions: redefining the field

This one day conference, planned for the 25th November 2016,  is intended to provide an opportunity for various researchers with significant insights into mathematics anxiety and emotions to discuss and debate on the future developments of the field. As a fundamental aspect of our open approach to understanding the state of the art in mathematics anxiety research it is anticipated that the expertise shared at this event will be productive for all involved, will feed into our meta-analysis and assist analysing implications for policy, practice and future research agendas. Here is the agenda:

9:00-9:40 Registration and Coffee
9:40-11:10 Introduction to the day

Session 1: Conceptualisation of mathematics anxiety
(Chair: David Swanson)

Luis Radford
Pietro Di Martino

11:10-11:30 Coffee/Tea Break
11:30-12:45 Session 2: The relationship between maths anxiety and performance
(Chair: Jackie Carter)

Thomas Hunt
Steve Chinn
12:45-13:30 Lunch Break
13:30-15:00 Session 3: Resilience and overcoming maths anxiety
(Chair: Paul Hernandez-Martinez)

Sue Johnston-Wilder
John MacInnes
15:00-15:20 Coffee/Tea Break
15:20-16:30 Session 4: The role of parents, teachers and the wider community
(Chair: Kevin Ralston)

Ann Dowker
Gijsbert Stoet
16:30-17:00 Steps forward (Julian Williams and Maria Pampaka)


Conference details

Date: Friday 25th November. 9-5pm. (Refreshments and lunch provided)

Location: Manchester Conference Centre, Pendulum Hotel, Sackville Street, Manchester, M1 3BB, UK

Getting there: Located close to the Metrolink and a short stroll from both Manchester Piccadilly and Oxford Road Train Stations. Situated next to the Pendulum Hotel, on Charles Street, is a multi-storey car park.


A few places are still available due to last minute cancellations. Please email or to book your place.

Session outlines

Session 1: Conceptualistion of mathematics anxiety (Chair: David Swanson)

Luis Radford
Emotions in teaching and learning

Suggested reading:


Pietro Di Martino
A narrative approach to the study of students’ relationships and emotions with math

Abstract: Great emphasis was given to methodological issues in the field of affect in the last decade. In particular, a movement towards qualitative approaches in the study of affect happened, coherently with an interpretativist approach in mathematics education. In my talk, I will discuss the results about anxiety and other negative emotions emerged from a longitudinal research based on the analysis of autobiographical narrative essays. I will try to illustrate causes and consequences of mathematical anxiety.

Suggested readings:


Session 2: The relationship between maths anxiety and performance (Chair: Jackie Carter)

Thomas Hunt
The effect of maths anxiety on performance: A closer look and consideration of the mechanisms that underpin the relationship

Abstract: It is known that high maths anxiety is related to poorer maths performance. However, the relationship is more complicated than this and the mechanisms that underpin the relationship are still not fully understood. In my talk I will discuss the nature of the maths anxiety-to-performance relationship, including the importance of considering maths problem type and test conditions. Further to this, I will discuss some theoretical explanations for the effect of maths anxiety on performance, including the importance of what performance measures consist of.

Steve Chinn
The relationship between maths anxiety and performance focusing on students’ withdrawal from the task.

This session will look at the impact of anxiety in the classroom from a teacher’s perspective and will review some formal and informal research.

The issue of withdrawal will be considered from classroom research from 1995 and 2012 plus an (international) informal survey of thousands of teachers.

Some hypotheses, based in part on our knowledge of dyscalculia, as to the causes of this problem will be discussed.

Suggested readings:


Session 3: Resilience and overcoming maths anxiety (Chair: Paul Hernandez-Martinez)

John MacInnes (Lesson from Q-Step)
Cumulative and complex knowledge: is it a factor in maths anxiety? 

Abstract: One of the features that seems to be emerging from the Q-Step programme is that there is a fairly early threshold point up until which students are ‘lost’. They are keenly aware that there are ideas that they have not grasped or have not understood, but neither are they sure exactly what these ideas are: they are plagued by ‘unknown unknowns’. They cannot easily ask for help as they cannot yet articulate what help they need or exactly what it is that they do not know. There is a powerful catch-22 at work here: in order to be able pinpoint what it is that have not grasped they need to be able to understand it – at least well enough to see how it fits in the overall scheme of things. While this process can be facilitated by good teaching that proceeds carefully and clearly I doubt there is any way of avoiding it.

This is important for understanding anxiety as I suspect that this process, or something like it, is what fuels most anxiety. It also suggests what sets maths or statistics apart from many other subjects. The knowledge is not only cumulative, in the sense that there is a foundation that needs to be understood before later stages can be built, it is also that the elements in this foundation are interconnected – they comprise a built structure rather than a pile of bricks. If this is the case students are faced with learning a set of ideas within which the details of the individual components may be intrinsically of little interest, because their significance can only be appreciated when they can see the whole structure. Once the ‘eureka’ moment arrives however, the thrilling feeling of achievement that comes with it can be a fantastic motor for going much murther and faster in learning.

James Nicholson
The role of poor textbooks and errors in examinations in maths anxiety

Poor teaching and assessment materials can create uncertainty in students and teachers which can cause anxiety and low confidence, and lower performance in assessments. This session will show some examples of bad practice and discuss the problems they create.

Sue Johnston-Wilder
Mathematics anxiety is acquired, debilitating and treatable – now can we talk about entitlement?

Suggested reading:

Note: Unfortunately, this talk was cancelled.


Session 4: The Role of Parents, teachers and the wider community (Chair: Kevin Ralston)

Ann Dowker
Mathematics Anxiety: Effects of Gender, Age and Culture

Gijbert Stoet