Learning to relax: Evaluating four brief interventions for overcoming the negative emotions accompanying math anxiety

Tad T. Brunyé*, Caroline R. Mahoney, Grace E. Giles, David N. Rapp, Holly A. Taylor, Robin B. Kanarek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

50 Scopus citations

Abstract

We examined the potential effectiveness of four brief interventions, three behavioral and one nutritional, for helping high math-anxious college students regulate negative emotions immediately prior to a time-pressured arithmetic test. Participants with low versus high math anxiety performed a timed arithmetic task after practicing one of three short-term breathing exercises promoting focused attention, unfocused attention, or worry, and after consuming either 0 or 200. mg l-theanine. Overall, participants with high math anxiety underperformed relative to those with low math anxiety. This effect, however, was largely alleviated by a focused breathing exercise, which increased rated calmness and enhanced performance on the arithmetic test amongst those with high math anxiety. l-theanine supplementation showed only minimal effects. These results provide insights into the attentional mechanisms involved in regulating the negative emotions that lead to testing underperformance, and suggest that focused breathing exercises can be a useful, practical tool for helping address the negative impacts of math anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalLearning and Individual Differences
Volume27
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2013

Keywords

  • Executive control
  • Focused breathing
  • L-theanine
  • Math anxiety
  • Mindfulness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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