Mathematics anxiety in student nurses

Johnson, Gay Brianna (2015). Mathematics anxiety in student nurses. EdD thesis The Open University.



Mathematics anxiety is a significant problem amongst student nurses and can potentially have a negative impact on an individual’s ability to perform safely and effectively in practice. This creates problems for those involved in developing undergraduate nursing programmes and supporting the students in their learning. This study explores mathematics anxiety in student nurses in the belief that a better understanding may help to develop better strategies to prevent or reduce anxiety, or help to address the problems that it creates.

The study employs a Mixed Methods design and consists of two stages. The first is a survey of one cohort of student nurses to determine the extent of mathematics anxiety within the cohort. A data collection tool was developed and 423 completed questionnaires were returned. A total of 68.1% of students reported moderate to very high levels of mathematics anxiety. Statistical tests were performed to determine any differences due to gender, age, educational history and previous mathematics qualifications.

The second stage was in-depth narrative interviews with students who reported high or very high levels of mathematics anxiety, exploring any experiences they associated with when, why and how that anxiety developed. Nine students were interviewed and several themes emerged including the language of mathematics, the students’ inherited legacy of mathematics, implications for practice and interventions that students found most helpful.

The results of the study suggest that for many students their mathematics anxiety did not arise from traumatic experiences with aggressive mathematics teachers as is often purported, but as a result of the way in which they were taught mathematics, a lack of a positive working relationship with their teachers or a lack of concern or support from their family. The findings also suggest that for some students, previous successes in mathematics have not increased their confidence in their ability, possibly due to their perceptions of it as a cold and remote subject and the surface approach to learning that they have adopted in order to pass mathematics examinations.

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