University of Limerick
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An investigation into the extent and derivation of mathematics anxiety among mature students in Ireland

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posted on 2023-02-03, 16:16 authored by Dolores Maria Ryan
An increasing number of students entering higher education undergraduate programmes in Ireland are required to take modules in mathematics, referred to as ‘service mathematics’ where mathematics is a component of study, but not the main discipline of study. For some students, their engagement with service mathematics can be accompanied by apprehension and fear, particularly if previous experiences of mathematics have been negative. This can be especially true for mature students, who may not have had exposure to formal mathematics for a number of years and may feel at a disadvantage compared with those ‘traditional’ students who entered higher education after completing the Leaving Certificate examination. The term ‘mathematics anxiety’ is used by numerous researchers to conceptualise the apprehension and fear among students in relation to their dealings with mathematics. Much research into mathematics anxiety has focused on issues pertinent to second-level and ‘traditional’ higher education students. To this end, the researcher has identified the need to examine the extent to which mathematics anxiety exists among mature students learning service mathematics. As a social construct, mathematics anxiety lends itself to exploration using a mixed methods approach. To this end, the research design comprised two-phases; first, a survey including the Mathematics Anxiety Scale–UK (MAS-UK) was completed by 107 undergraduate mature students in Irish Higher Education Institutions. Second, adapted life story interviews were conducted with twenty of these mature students to facilitate an insight into their individual experiences with mathematics, leading to the identification of specific incidents of engagement with mathematics that may have contributed to their levels of mathematics anxiety. The findings show that mathematics anxiety exists at varying levels among these mature students, and that there are significant incidents that contribute to the level of anxiety experienced which stem from a combination of factors from their past experiences with mathematics in the school and home environments.



  • Faculty of Education and Health Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Olivia Fitzmaurice

Second supervisor

Patrick Johnston





Department or School

  • School of Education

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