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Reducing Mathematics Anxiety Among Students with Pseudo-Dyscalculia in Ibadan Through Numerical Cognition and Emotional Freedom Techniques: Moderating Effect of Mathematics Efficacy

Citation: Aremu, A.O., and Taiwo, A.K., Department of Guidance and Counselling, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Full paper.


Anxiety in mathematics is a critical challenge facing secondary school students in Nigeria. Previous studies with focus on the improvement of this challenge are scarce. Specifically, there is paucity of studies using Numerical Cognition and Emotional Freedom techniques in solving the above challenges, This study therefore investigated the effects of numerical cognition and emotional freedom techniques on mathematics anxiety among non-science students with pseudo-dyscalculia in Oyo State. Pretest, post-test, control group quasi experimental design was adopted for the study. One hundred and two students were sampled through simple random sampling. Mathematics Anxiety Scale (α = 0.89), Mathematics Efficacy (α = 0.86) and Pseudo-dyscalculia scale (α = 0.93) were administered to obtain data for the study. Therapeutic packages used for the intervention were Numerical Cognition and Emotional Freedom. Seven hypotheses were tested at 0.01 level of significance. Data was analysed using Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA). The study revealed main effect of treatment on Mathematics Anxiety; F (2,109) = 173.020, p<.01. Meridian-Based intervention was more effective (mean = 33.78) than Numerical cognition (mean = 45.35) in the reduction of Mathematics anxiety. There was significant main effect; F(1, 109 = 21.00, p<.01); interactive effect F(2, 109 = 6.116, p<.01 of mathematics efficacy and Treatment on mathematics anxiety of the participants. The two packages were effective in reducing mathematics anxiety among the participants. Based on the findings, Educational Psychologists, Counselling Psychologist and other educational related bodies could adopt the packages for educational diagnosis to improve academic performance of students with academic phobia.

Craig’s Notes

This study, based in Nigerian, investigated whether EFT might be effective in improving numerical cognition and reducing mathematics anxiety in secondary school students who struggle with fear of mathematics (pseudo-dyscalculia). Researchers describe mathematics anxiety as “an intense emotional feeling of anxiety that people have about their ability to understand and do Mathematics. People who suffer from Mathematics anxiety feel that they are incapable of doing activities and participating effectively in classes that involve Mathematics. Some Mathematics anxious people even have a fear of Mathematics called pseudo-dyscalculia, which is described as false belief in Mathematics disability caused by lack of, inconsistent, poor, or inappropriate systematic Mathematics instruction; inattention, fear, anxiety, or emotion.”

They note that this false belief in a mathematics disability can limit students’ choices for college majors and subsequent careers.

The researchers hypothesized that since EFT addresses negative emotions and thoughts, such as anxiety, anger, and low self-esteem—which are all experienced by these students—that it could redirect thought patterns and response mechanisms resulting in improved cognition skills and a reduction in resistance and the phobic response. They also note there has been very little research thus far in using tools like EFT for this issue, although they cite a few studies.

Researchers selected 120 students for this study, all low achievers in mathematics, from three secondary schools. They were divided into three groups. One received EFT intervention, another received a more intellectual intervention known as Numerical Cognition Therapy, and a control group receiving no intervention. The experiment spanned ten weeks. Students took a pretest and then were evaluated post-treatment. A pseudo-dyscalculia scale was used to identify people with mathematics phobia. Mathematics efficacy scale was used to identify those students with high and low mathematics efficacy.

So, what were the results?

The students who received EFT or Numerical Cognition Therapy experienced statistically significant reduction in mathematical anxiety, with the EFT group experiencing the best results. And both groups also experienced improvements in the efficacy with mathematics. Researchers concluded that EFT was definitely superior to other cognitive based techniques in improving the anxiety and the false belief in one’s inability to do math. They further concluded that reducing the anxiety helped more with improving students’ cognition of mathematical concepts than other therapies.

They are hopeful about the implications that the use of EFT in schools and recommend that school counselors begin to use the modality with students who struggle with mathematics.