Several years ago, Haley Boyd’s mother was cleaning out the basement when she found some of Haley’s report cards from elementary and middle school.
Her math grades weren’t very good, said Boyd, a USC Aiken senior and psychology major.
“I had math anxiety, and that’s what led my interest in this study,” she said with a smile on Thursday.
Sure enough, she and three other undergraduates have completed a project on math anxiety.
Led by Dr. Keri Weed, a psychology professor, the students used a variety of tests with volunteers to explore their physiological and emotional reactions.
At the university on Thursday, they presented their preliminary findings to a number of professors and other guests.
The intent, specifically, was to determine the role of peoples’ own perception of their math anxiety, Boyd said.
Indeed, the effort found a significant role.
A conclusion of the study “indicates that perception of math anxiety is a greater predictor of math performance than actual physiological measure(s) of anxiety.”
Another USCA student, nursing major Ifeoluwa Ekundayo, participated in the study with two University of Wisconsin-Stout students, Paige Lysne and Jake Achtemeier.
The universities had initiated a student swap; two USCA students traveled to UW-Stout to work with students from that campus on another project.
The young researchers tested both men and women during the math anxiety project.
They found no significant difference in their math performance.
Interestingly, Lysne said, the men reported slightly higher anxiety than they actually had experienced.
“The women had slightly higher anxiety, but they didn’t think they did,” Lysne said. “But this does debunk the belief that men are better at math than women.”
Weed is delighted the students did the research and created their presentation posters in just two weeks.
“There was a lot of hard work, and everybody contributed above and beyond,” she said.
Undergraduate research is a tremendous opportunity for young students, said Dr. Ed Callen, the psychology department chairman.
The students’ poster presentations were on par with those at professional conferences, he said.
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter.