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J Learn Disabil. 2014 Nov-Dec;47(6):503-14. doi: 10.1177/0022219412473154. Epub 2013 Jan 11.

Mathematics achievement and anxiety and their relation to internalizing and externalizing behaviors.

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University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA
University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA.
Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, USA.


Although behavioral difficulties are well documented in reading disabilities, little is known about the relationship between math ability and internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Here, we use standardized measures to investigate the relation among early math ability, math anxiety, and internalizing and externalizing behaviors in a group of 366 second and third graders. Math achievement was significantly correlated with attentional difficulties and social problems but not with internalizing symptoms. The relation between math achievement and externalizing behavioral problems was stronger in girls than in boys. Math achievement was not correlated with trait anxiety but was negatively correlated with math anxiety. Critically, math anxiety differed significantly between children classified as math learning disabled (MLD), low achieving (LA), and typically developing (TD), with math anxiety significantly higher in the MLD and LA groups compared to the TD group. Our findings suggest that, even in nonclinical samples, math difficulties at the earliest stages of formal math learning are associated with attentional difficulties and domain-specific anxiety. These findings underscore the need for further examination of the shared cognitive, neural, and genetic influences underlying problem solving and nonverbal learning difficulties and accompanying internalizing and externalizing behaviors.


behavior issues; dyscalculia; mathematics

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