Dept of Mathematics Education seminar: 17 May 2023

There will be three presentations with time for questions and answers after each.


  • Dr Ann Dowker; Oxford University
  • Dr Anna Matejko; Durham University
  • Sara Caviola; University of Padua, Italy


40 mins Presentation + 20 mins Q&A: Dr Ann Dowker

Age differences in children’s attitudes to mathematics and mathematics anxiety

(Oxford University) []


There is much recent research into attitudes to mathematics, most of which suggests a significant relationship between attitudes and performance. In particular, mathematics anxiety is often associated with worse mathematics performance. This makes it particularly important to study age differences in attitudes to mathematics. Several previous studies have suggested that attitudes to mathematics deteriorate with age. Many, though not all, studies also indicate that females have more negative attitudes than males to mathematics. The present study investigated children’s and adolescents’ attitudes to mathematics, with a particular focus on whether and how these are related to age and gender. 216 pupils from Years 2 (6-to 7-year-olds), 6 (10-to 11-year-olds), 9 (13-to 14-year-olds) and 12 (16-to 17-year-olds) participated in the study. They were equally divided as to year group, and each year group was approximately equally divided by gender. They were given (1) the  Mathematics Attitude and Anxiety’ questionnaire (Thomas & Dowker, 2000), which assesses levels of maths anxiety; unhappiness at failure in maths; liking for maths, and self-rating in maths; and (2) the British Abilities Scales Basic Number Skills Test to establish actual mathematics performance. Analyses of variance indicated a significant main  effect of age on both liking for maths and self-rating in maths: older children were lower than younger children in both. The negative association between age and attitudes to maths was stronger in girls. There were significant gender differences in self-rating: boys rated themselves higher than girls, though there was no significant gender difference in mathematical performance. Self-rating, but not anxiety, correlated significantly with mathematical performance in both boys and girls. Some implications for our understanding of mathematics anxiety and attitudes to mathematics, and their relationship to mathematical performance, are discussed.


40 mins Presentation + 20 mins Q&A: Dr Sara Caviola

Should I stress or should I not? The role of contextual factors and students’ expectations in explaining their maths attainment.

(University of Padova, Italy) []


A vast body of literature has examined the potential role of either affective/motivational or contextual factors in explaining pupils' mathematical achievement. However, there is a lack of a more heterogenous view reflecting the potential interaction between students’ affective factors (such as maths anxiety, children’s expectations, etc…) and contextual factors (such as quality of the classroom climate) in explaining their maths attainment. During the talk, two studies will be presented, tackling these aspects. In the first study, about 270 students and their teachers were involved to examine the relationship between students’ maths attainment, their maths anxiety levels and their relationship with teachers, evaluated from both students’ and teachers’ perspectives. We also tested the potential mediational role of teachers' maths-related metacognitive beliefs of their students.

The second study, however, will present preliminary results on a wider sample of schoolchildren (about 560) in order to test the motivational processes (including their expectations and values) involved in maths-related outcomes.

Overall, these findings provide an important contribution to further understanding the impact of teachers' attitudes and children's own expectations in relation to this complex subject.


40 mins Presentation + 20 mins Q&A: Dr Anna Matejko

Understanding the relationship between math and reading difficulties: Evidence from brain and behaviour

(Durham University) []


Math and reading have traditionally been studied separately, and the commonly-held view is that they are distinct and unrelated academic skills. Yet, learning difficulties in math (dyscalculia) and reading (dyslexia) frequently co-occur, indicating that the relationship between these skills may be more complex than previously thought. In this talk, I will discuss evidence that uses multiple approaches - including brain imaging, behaviour, and intervention - to shed light on the relationship between math and reading difficulties. Specifically, I will explore: 1) the shared cognitive underpinnings of math and reading difficulties; 2) how children with combined math and reading difficulties differ from those who have only one learning difficulty; and 3) how intervention can be used to probe the relationship between math and reading skills in children with specific learning difficulties.


Contact: Krzysztof Cipora

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Krzysztof Cipora
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