Patterns of Attention and Anxiety in Predicting Arithmetic Fluency among School-Aged Children

Although the interaction between anxiety and attention is considered crucial for learning and performance in mathematics, few studies have examined these cognitive and affective predictors in a single framework or explored the role of sustained attention in promoting children's arithmetic performance, using traditional linear analyses and latent profile analysis (LPA). In this paper, state anxieties (in a math test and in an attention test situation), general anxiety traits, sustained attention (performance-based test and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) self-ratings) and math achievement of 403 fourth and fifth graders (55.8% girls) were assessed. A negative correlation between state anxiety prior to the math test and arithmetic achievements was identified, even when controlling for other non-math related state anxieties and general anxiety. Sustained attention was a strong predictor of arithmetic achievement and functioned as a moderator in the anxiety-performance link. LPA identified six distinct profiles that revealed a complex relationship with arithmetic fluency. The weakest achievement was found for a specific math anxiety subgroup. The findings highlight the important role of the interaction of anxiety and sustained attention in children's ability to perform math and enable new conclusions about the specific nature of math anxiety. Implications for future research are discussed.


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