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Side by Side Headshots of Sian Beilock and Jalisha Jenifer

On December 21, 2022, Sian Leah Beilock, President of Barnard College, Jalisha Jenifer, Postdoctoral Fellow, and upcoming Associate Director of Faculty Development at Columbia's School of Professional Studies, and Susan C. Levine, a University of Chicago psychology professor, published a new article in the journal ZDM - Mathematics Education titled, “Studying while anxious: mathematics anxiety and the avoidance of solving practice problems during exam preparation in college calculus.” The work closely examines how avoidance behaviors manifest for highly anxious math college students, revealing that those with more math anxiety are less likely to utilize effortful study strategies during exam preparation (i.e. they often skip the practice tests when studying). The work follows up on previously published work from the research team that explored the relation between math anxiety and the planned exam preparation behaviors of advanced-level high school students.

The researchers surveyed college students enrolled in an introductory Calculus course to assess their levels of math anxiety and find out how they studied for their final exam. They hypothesized that students experiencing math anxiety would retrospectively report less engagement with effortful study strategies during exam preparation compared to their less-anxious peers, which was the case. Students in this study reported that they considered solving practice problems to be one of the most effortful study strategies, and the results showed that math anxiety was negatively associated with the amount of time students spent on this strategy as part of their final exam preparation. The significant relationship between math anxiety and students’ self-regulated exam preparation behaviors has important implications for how to help highly math-anxious students improve their performance.