The developmental trajectories of mathematics anxiety: Cognitive, personality, and environmental correlates

Zhe Wang, Wonjung Oh, Margherita Malanchini, Giulia A. Borriello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Students who are highly anxious about mathematics-related activities generally exhibit lower mathematics achievement and motivation compared to their less anxious counterparts. Despite negative implications of mathematics anxiety (MA) on mathematics learning, there is a paucity of research examining how MA develops over time. Using the Longitudinal Study of American Youth dataset (N = 3116), the present study investigated two main questions regarding the development of MA in secondary school: (1) Is the development of MA characterized by a heterogeneous subset of growth trajectories? (2) How are time-varying personal and environmental factors (e.g., mathematics achievement; perceptions of math teachers) related to specific MA growth trajectories? Student MA was repeatedly assessed in six annual waves spanning across middle and high school. Using growth mixture modeling, we identified four growth trajectories of MA: (1) The non-anxious group that exhibited chronically low MA; (2) The highly anxious group which displayed moderately high MA over time; (3) The resilient group that exhibited high initial MA that steadily decreased over time; and (4) The vulnerable group that reported low initial MA that drastically increased over time. In addition, significant differences in the development of mathematics achievement, personality hardiness, and perceptions of mathematics teachers were found in these four MA groups. Findings highlight heterogeneity in the development of MA, identify middle school as a critical period for MA development, and emphasize the importance of examining developmental changes in cognitive, personality, and environmental factors to help clarify distinct MA trajectories across middle and high school.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101876
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • Adolescence
  • Growth mixture modeling
  • Mathematics achievement
  • Mathematics anxiety
  • Personality hardiness
  • Student perceptions of mathematics teachers


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