Non-adaptive strategy selection in adults with high mathematical anxiety

Sarit Ashkenazi*, Deema Najjar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Participants with mathematical anxiety (MA) tend to show particular difficulty in mathematical operations with high working memory (WM) demands compared to operations with lower WM demands. Accordingly, we examined strategy selection to test the cognitive mechanism underlying the observed weakness of high MA participants in mathematical operations with high WM demands. We compared two groups of college students with high or low MA, in the solution of simple non-carry addition problems (e.g., 54 + 63) and complex carryover addition problems (e.g., 59 + 63). The results indicated that high MA participants showed particular difficulty in the harder carry condition. Testing the strategy selection mechanism among high MA participants, we found in the carry condition 1) they used the common strategy less often compared to low MA participants and 2) employed unusual strategies more often compared to low MA participants. Therefore, high MA participants were less efficient in their strategy selection, which may be due to weaker spatial representations, numerical difficulties, or less experience solving complex problems. These primitive representations are not adaptive, and can negatively impact performance in math tasks with high WM demands.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number10744
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2018

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