# What counts as math? Relating conceptions of math with anxiety about math

- Ruthe Foushee,
*University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA*
- Rachel Jansen,
*University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA*
- Mahesh Srinivasan,
*University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA*

## Abstract

What do people think of when they think of "math?" We propose that
individuals may have very different working definitions of the category of math,
and that those with broader math conceptions may have less math anxiety. In Study
1, we introduce a method for indexing the "breadth" of individuals' math
conceptions, and show that there is an inverse relation between conception
breadth and math anxiety. These results suggest that math anxiety is related both
to how expansive individuals perceive math to be, and how skillful they feel at
the activities they think it could involve. Study 2 attempts an intervention on
middle school students' conceptions of math. We find the same inverse
relationship between students' math conception breadth and anxiety as found in
adults. We discuss ongoing work that further explores qualitative variation in
math conceptions, and the lessons this may hold for intervening on math
anxiety.

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