Mothers, intrinsic math motivation, arithmetic skills, and math anxiety in elementary school

Lital Daches Cohen, Orly Rubinsten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Math anxiety is influenced by environmental, cognitive, and personal factors. Yet, the concurrent relationships between these factors have not been examined. To this end, the current study investigated how the math anxiety of 30 sixth graders is affected by: (a) mother's math anxiety and maternal behaviors (environmental factors); (b) children's arithmetic skills (cognitive factors); and (c) intrinsic math motivation (personal factor). A rigorous assessment of children's math anxiety was made by using both explicit and implicit measures. The results indicated that accessible self-representations of math anxiety, as reflected by the explicit self-report questionnaire, were strongly affected by arithmetic skills. However, unconscious cognitive constructs of math anxiety, as reflected by the numerical dot-probe task, were strongly affected by environmental factors, such as maternal behaviors and mothers' attitudes toward math. Furthermore, the present study provided preliminary evidence of intergenerational transmission of math anxiety. The conclusions are that in order to better understand the etiology of math anxiety, multiple facets of parenting and children's skills should be taken into consideration. Implications for researchers, parents, and educators are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1939
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberNOV
StatePublished - 13 Nov 2017


  • Educational psychology
  • Emotional development
  • Intrinsic math motivation
  • Math achievement
  • Math anxiety

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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