Timed Tests Linked to Math Anxiety

In July 3rd article published in Education Week, researchers point to timed tests as a cause of math anxiety causing long-term, detrimental effects on student achievement.

Education writer Joe Boaler describes a major math crisis: “The damage starts early in this country, with school districts requiring young children to take timed math tests from the age of 5. This is despite research that has shown that timed tests are the direct cause of the early onset of math anxiety.”

Researcher Mark H. Ashcraft* agree with Boaler’s conclusions. In Current Directions in Psychological Science, he contends that people with math anxiety “are exposed to less math in school and apparently learn less of what they are exposed to; as a result, they show lower achievement as measured by standardized tests.” Ashcraft adds that math anxiety is “only weakly related to overall intelligence.”

Ashcraft’s article, “Math Anxiety: Personal, Educational and Cognitive Consequences**”, highlights the need for rethinking standardized math tests. Boaler points out that because the new Common Core State Standards require measuring “math fluency,” some teachers may erroneously equate the importance of mastering mathematical skills within a time limit.

Students experiencing math anxiety face many obstacles: Essential college courses are discouraged and avoided, therefore limiting career options for these students. According to Ashcraft, “It is therefore no surprise that people with math anxiety tend to avoid college majors and career paths that depend heavily on math or quantitative skills, with obvious and unfortunate consequences.”

Education Week is hosting a webinar July 26th on “Math Practices and the Common Core,” to help educators and parents prepare students for the higher rigor aligned with the standard assessments.

Click here to access an introduction to the EdWeek.org article, and a link to the webinar registration.

Click here to download Ashcraft’s article.

*Mark H. Ashcraft, Department of Psychology, Cleveland State University, OH
**Volume 11, Number 5, October 2002, pp. 181-185, © 2002 American Psychological Society