Predicting maths anxiety from mathematical achievement across the transition from primary to secondary education

R Soc Open Sci. 2019 Nov 27;6(11):191459. doi: 10.1098/rsos.191459. eCollection 2019 Nov.


The primary- to secondary-education transition is a substantive life event for many children. The transition can be associated with changes in the developmental trajectories of both emotional health and academic achievement. The current study looked at whether the trajectory of mathematical attainment and emotional health (anxiety) across this transition predicted later maths anxiety. A secondary analysis of data from the Twin Early Development Study (TEDS) was performed. The statistical models were fit on the 753 participants (one from each twin pair) for which there were measures of mathematical performance across the primary- to secondary-education transition and maths anxiety at age 18. Two multi-level growth models were fit predicting mathematical attainment and anxiety over the primary- to secondary-education transition. The intercepts and slopes for each child were extracted from these models and used as predictors of subsequent maths anxiety at age 18. These effects were adjusted for biological sex, socio-economic status, verbal cognitive ability and general anxiety. Maths anxiety at age 18 was significantly predicted by both pre-transition levels of anxiety and mathematical attainment and their rate of change across the primary- to secondary-education transition. However, the effects were small, suggesting that theories of maths anxiety may have overplayed the role of prior mathematical attainment and general anxiety.

Keywords: anxiety; education; maths.

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4741271