Mathematics anxiety in children with developmental dyscalculia

Orly Rubinsten, Rosemary Tannock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Background: Math anxiety, defined as a negative affective response to mathematics, is known to have deleterious effects on math performance in the general population. However, the assumption that math anxiety is directly related to math performance, has not yet been validated. Thus, our primary objective was to investigate the effects of math anxiety on numerical processing in children with specific deficits in the acquisition of math skills (Developmental Dyscalculia; DD) by using a novel affective priming task as an indirect measure.Methods: Participants (12 children with DD and 11 typically-developing peers) completed a novel priming task in which an arithmetic equation was preceded by one of four types of priming words (positive, neutral, negative or related to mathematics). Children were required to indicate whether the equation (simple math facts based on addition, subtraction, multiplication or division) was true or false. Typically, people respond to target stimuli more quickly after presentation of an affectively-related prime than after one that is unrelated affectively.Result: Participants with DD responded faster to targets that were preceded by both negative primes and math-related primes. A reversed pattern was present in the control group.Conclusion: These results reveal a direct link between emotions, arithmetic and low achievement in math. It is also suggested that arithmetic-affective priming might be used as an indirect measure of math anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Article number46
JournalBehavioral and Brain Functions
StatePublished - 15 Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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