Haghtalab T, Torkashvand A, Karvan F, Zarabian N. Prediction of Mathematical Anxiety Based on MetaCognitive Beliefs and Mathematical SelfEfficacy in Female High School Students. Avicenna J Neuro Psycho Physiology 2022; 9 (3) :110116
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1 Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, University of BuAli Sina, Hamedan, Iran. , haghtalab3553@yahoo.com
2 Master of Educational psychology, Hamadan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Hamadan , Iran
3 Hamadan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Hamadan, Iran
4 Master of Clinical Psychology, Faculty of Medical Science, Sanandaj Branch, Islamic Azad University, Sanandaj, Iran
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Background
Anxiety, as an inseparable part of human life, even during childhood and adolescence, is a component of personality structure, and some of the anxieties experienced during childhood and adolescence can be considered normal from this perspective. The naming of the present century as the century of global stress and anxiety indicates the importance of these issues in various aspects of life [1]. Mathematics is one of the subjects in school, and the proper performance of students in this subject has always been of great importance to them and their parents [2]. However, mathematical anxiety is one of the factors that can hinder the process of studying this subject and the positive factors associated with it [3].
Mathematical anxiety results in weakened mental processes and low mathematical performance, as well as students’ confusion and negative perspective. Students with mathematical anxiety avoid learning this subject by skipping mathematics classes. Moreover, they are unable to perform mathematical exams and experience excessive anxiety and worry [4]. Mathematical anxiety occurs as a state of discomfort when a student wants to do his/her mathematical homework [5]. The main characteristics of this disorder include feeling dislike, worry, and fear toward this subject, along with specific behavioral manifestations, such as stress, frustration, distress, disability, and mental disorder when embarking on mathematical tasks [6].
Mathematical anxiety is a complex phenomenon that affects an individual’s emotional, behavioral, and cognitive responses. In fact, one of the personality traits that can prevent the development of mathematical anxiety is metacognitive beliefs [5]. Metacognition is a multifaceted concept that includes knowledge (beliefs), processes, and strategies for evaluating, monitoring, or controlling cognition. Metacognitive psychology is a new field of thought dating back to the 1970s [7]. Metacognitive skills play an important role in a variety of cognitive activities, such as verbal exchange of information, verbal comprehension, and writing [8].
In recent years, metacognition has been studied as the basis for many psychological disorders. One of the reasons why many researchers are interested in the field of metacognition is that they believe that this field has important implications in the field of education. A metaanalytic study conducted by Wong et al. [9] on factors that affect the students’ learning showed that among 228 factors affecting learning, cognitive and metacognitive processes have the greatest impact on the students’ learning.
A previous study [10] showed the relationship between metacognitive beliefs and stress, anxiety, thoughts unrelated to the exam, physical symptoms, and exam anxiety. In addition, three metacognitive components related to exam anxiety include cognitive selfawareness, positive beliefs about worry, and negative beliefs about the thought’s uncontrollability. A significant relationship was also found between metacognition and exam anxiety with educational success. A significant positive relationship between selfefficacy beliefs and students’ progress in mathematics was reported in a study performed by Kadivar [11]. The results of another study indicated that [12] selfesteem had a positive association with educational performance and a negative relationship with exam anxiety. Amini [13] reported a relationship between some metacognitive beliefs and students’ mathematical anxiety.
Research has indicated that students with mathematical anxiety have wellknown motivational and emotional characteristics that can be considered predicting factors of mathematical anxiety. One of these factors is one’s selfefficacy beliefs [14]. The role of beliefs and especially selfefficacy beliefs has been highlighted in new motivational theories [15]. Selfefficacy is a key variable in Bandura’s (1997) social cognitive theory. It is the belief that a person has the competencies required to organize and execute specific behaviors to achieve the desired results [16]. Selfefficacy is attributed to a sense of selfesteem and value and a sense of adequacy and efficiency in dealing with different circumstances in life [17]. This construct can affect behaviors associated with educational achievement, including job selection, as well as one’s efforts, persistence, and performance [18].
Selfefficacy is the confidence in one’s ability to control thoughts, feelings, and activities, and therefore, it affects the consequences of our actions. Selfefficacy expectations affect people’s actual performance, emotions, behavior selection, and ultimately, the amount of effort spent on each activity [19]. In a study entitled “A study of the relationship between teacher selfefficacy and students’ mathematical selfefficacy with their education performance”, Madraki indicated that teaching metacognitive strategies to individuals affects positively educational performances (e.g., the performance of homework) and achievements [20]. Burke [21] believes that a person’s selfefficacy plays a sensitive role in inhibiting or sustaining his/her behavior in various situations. Woll has reported that if the students believe that they can learn with an acceptable effort, they will make more effort and persevere more in the face of problems [22]. The students with high educational selfefficacy have higher educational motivation, are more successful, and are more likely to be able to overcome educational challenges [23].
Socialcognitive theorists have defined students’ personal selfefficacy beliefs as selfassessment of their ability to organize and perform the behavior needed to achieve certain types of performances that affect educational motivation and are considered to be strong predictors of educational outcomes. Some researchers, including Hackett, studied the role of personal selfefficacy in educational fields, such as mathematics [24]. Betz [25] have defined the mathematical selfefficacy as: An assessment of a particular problem or situation that demonstrates a person's confidence as to his/her ability to successfully complete a mathematical problem or task. Galla [26] showed in a research that anxiety in students with low emotional selfefficacy is a negative predictor of mathematical performance, but in the ones with high emotional selfefficacy, such a negative relationship was not observed. They also concluded that the emotional selfefficacy is beneficial in managing the negative effects of anxiety. Mathematical anxiety is a topic that has recently entered the field of educational and psychological research.
Objectives
In this study, an attempt has been made to take a step toward the existing gap in this field by investigating the relationship between mathematical anxiety, metacognitive beliefs, and mathematical selfefficacy. Therefore, the present study seeks to respond to the question of whether metacognitive beliefs and mathematical selfefficacy can predict mathematical anxiety.
Materials and Methods
The statistical population in this descriptive and correlational study included all female firstgrade students of Tuyserkan City in Hamadan province of Iran, in the academic year 20182019. To select the sample, a multistage cluster random sampling method was performed. The information was collected through questionnaires. According to Morgan’s table, 217 individuals were selected as the sample. The following tools were used to collect the data:
Mathematical Selfefficacy Scale
This questionnaire has 24 items with a spectrum of six degrees that measures selfefficacy for specific tasks [27]. The validity of this test has been shown by the authors through investigating the correlation between efficiency and motivational indicators. The correlation coefficient of this scale and the average grade marks reported by the students (P<0.01, r=0.40) also proved its content validity. Cronbach’s alpha coefficients calculated for this scale by the authors were between 0.91 to 0.93 and it was 0.90 in the study conducted by Khayyer [28]. In addition, the reliability coefficient of this scale using Cronbach’s alpha method has been estimated at 0.85 by Middleton [29].
Mathematical Exam Anxiety Scale
This scale consists of 25 fourchoice questions that measure students’ mathematical anxiety. The minimum and maximum total scores are zero and 75, respectively. The higher the person’s score, the higher the amount of anxiety. Thus, the scores less than 12, between 13 and 37, between 38 and 62, and higher than 63 indicated no anxiety, low anxiety, moderate anxiety, and high anxiety, respectively. The standard validity of the questionnaire (0.72) was acceptable. The testretest reliability was 0.88 and its internal consistency was 0.95 [30]. The Cronbach’s alpha coefficient of the questionnaire was reported to be 0.73 in a study performed by Keramati [31].
Metacognitive Beliefs Questionnaire
This 52item questionnaire has been developed by Schraw [32] to investigate the metacognitive strategies of adolescents and adults. The questionnaire measures distinctive factors including two aspects of metacognition, namely cognitive knowledge and cognitive regulation through eight subprocesses of metacognition. The factors related to cognitive knowledge include three subprocesses of expressive knowledge, trend knowledge, and conditional knowledge, and factors related to cognitive regulation include five subprocesses of planning, information management strategies, controlling, monitoring, and evaluating the learning process. The test scoring is on a fivepoint scale. The total scores of this questionnaire range from 52 to 260. The total scores are from 17 to 85 for the metacognitive knowledge component and from 35 to 175 for the metacognitive regulation scale. Schraw [32] reported the reliability coefficient of the questionnaire by Cronbach’s alpha method to be 0.93. The correlation coefficient between the components for the whole scale was 0.95, according to the study conducted by Delavarpour [33]. The correlation coefficient between the components was reported to be 0.87 by Safari [34]. Motahedi [35] also calculated the correlation coefficient between the two general aspects of metacognition and metacognitive control as 0.91 and 0.98, respectively.
Results
After investigating the assumptions of parametric statistics, regression and Pearson’s correlation coefficient were used to analyze and investigate the research hypotheses. Table 1 shows the number, mean, and standard deviation of the research subscales.
As can be seen in Table 1, the highest mean belongs to the metacognitive beliefs scale (190.15) and the lowest mean belongs to the process knowledge subscale (14.54).
Hypothesis 1: There is an association between students’ metacognitive beliefs and their mathematical anxiety.
Table 1. Descriptive data of the research variables
Variable 
N 

S 
Mathematical anxiety 
110 
14.91 
4.154 
Expressive knowledge 
110 
29.11 
5.659 
Process knowledge 
110 
14.54 
3.043 
Conditional knowledge 
110 
18.16 
3.595 
Planning 
110 
24.25 
5.393 
Information management strategies 
110 
36.84 
6.734 
Review 
110 
19.72 
3.839 
Evaluation 
110 
22.03 
4.306 
Control 
110 
25.52 
5.138 
Metacognitive beliefs 
110 
190.15 
30.182 
Mathematical selfefficacy 
110 
88.54 
15.146 
Table 2. Correlation coefficients matrix between the aspects of metacognitive beliefs and mathematical anxiety
11 
10 
9 
8 
7 
6 
5 
4 
3 
2 
1 
Variable 
Item 










1 
Mathematical Anxiety 
1 









1 
0.047 
Expressive knowledge 
2 








1 
**0.621 
0.047 
Process knowledge 
3 







1 
**0.607 
**0.645 
0.110 
Conditional knowledge 
4 






1 
**0.261 
**0.587 
**0.651 
0.150 
Planning 
5 





1 
**0.695 
**0.466 
**0.594 
**0.675 
*0.201 
Information management strategies 
6 




1 
**0.076 
**0.395 
**0.856 
**0.412 
**0.512 
0.155 
Review 
7 



1 
**0.493 
**0.416 
**0.693 
**0.868 
**0.546 
**0.678 
*0.213 
Evaluation 
8 


1 
**0.765 
**0.441 
**0.853 
**0.165 
**0.956 
**0.955 
**0.845 
*0.192 
Control 
9 

1 
**0.175 
**0.348 
**0.967 
**0.185 
**0.977 
**0.682 
**0.375 
**0.558 
*0.195 
Metacognitive beliefs 
10 
1 
**0.352 
**0.235 
**0.344 
**0.836 
**0.343 
**0.564 
**0.241 
**0.240 
**0.944 
*0.196 
Mathematical selfefficacy 
11 
0.01**
As can be seen in Table 2, the correlation between mathematical anxiety and metacognitive beliefs (r=0.195) is significant at p<0.05.
Therefore, there is a positive and significant relationship between the metacognitive beliefs of firstgrade high school students and their mathematical anxiety.
Hypothesis 2: There is a relationship between students’ mathematical selfefficacy and their mathematical anxiety.
As can be seen in Table 2, the correlation coefficient between mathematical anxiety and mathematical selfefficacy (r=0.196) is significant at p<0.05. Therefore, there is a positive and significant relationship between the mathematical selfefficacy of firstgrade high school students and their
mathematical anxiety.
Hypothesis 3: The models of metacognitive beliefs and mathematical selfefficacy can explain the variance of students’ mathematical anxiety.
As can be seen in Table 3, the value of coefficient B between metacognitive beliefs and mathematical anxiety is 0.025% and the value of coefficient β is 0.181.
The coefficient B between mathematical selfefficacy and mathematical anxiety and the coefficient β is 0.047% and 0.171, respectively. Therefore, only 17% of the variance of the students’ mathematical anxiety is explained by the mathematical selfefficacy variable. This value for the explained variance is not statistically significant (P<0.05), based on the Fvalue observed in the table.
Table 3. Results of regression analysis of metacognitive beliefs and mathematical selfefficacy on mathematical anxiety
Predictor variables 
B 
Β 
P 
R 
R2 
Corrected R 
F 
P 
Expressive knowledge 
0.247 
0.336 
0.032 
0.374 
0.14 
0.062 
1.807 
0.076 
Process knowledge 
0.203 
0.149 
0.270 
Conditional knowledge 
0.135 
0.117 
0.443 
Planning 
0.049 
0.063 
0.660 
Information management strategies 
0.132 
0.213 
0.158 
Review 
0.060 
0.056 
0.651 
Evaluation 
0.206 
0.214 
0.172 
Control 
0.149 
0.186 
0.146 
Metacognitive beliefs 
0.025 
0.181 
0.058 





Mathematical selfefficacy 
0.047 
0.171 
0.126 





Discussion
The present study aimed to predict mathematical anxiety based on task selfefficacy, knowledge, and cognitive regulation in female firstyear high school students and determine the contribution of each component in predicting mathematical anxiety. The following results were obtained after statistical analysis.
Hypothesis 1: The results of the analysis showed that the Pearson correlation coefficient between the metacognitive beliefs of female firstgrade high school students and their mathematical anxiety is statistically positive and significant. Therefore, the first hypothesis of the study was confirmed. Other researchers have provided evidence to confirm the relationship between metacognitive beliefs and emotional disorders such as anxiety and worry [36,37,38,39].
In explaining this finding, it can be mentioned that students, with the help of their positive metacognitive beliefs, involve in the interpretation of social environment’s events and attempt to monitor and control their actions, behavior, and emotions including the mathematical anxiety, accordingly. The opposite applies as well, that is, the students have no control over their actions and behaviors using negative metacognitive beliefs, and they do what they like aimlessly. Such students do not plan for situations such as exams, regardless of the consequences that this may have for them; therefore, they become very anxious during the exams.
Hypothesis 2: The results of the analysis showed that the Pearson correlation coefficient between the mathematical selfefficacy of female firstgrade high school students and their mathematical anxiety was positive and statistically significant. Therefore, the second hypothesis was confirmed as well. The results confirm the findings of some previous studies [40,41], but contradict others
[14, 42, 43,44, 45].
In explaining this finding, it can be mentioned that selfefficacy, as an institutionalized factor, controls the actions of the individual [15], [41]. On the other hand, the findings reported by Lazarus and Folkman [41] show that individuals’ cognitive processes and personal beliefs play an important role in considering a situation challenging or threatening. In general, it can be concluded that people with high selfefficacy consider mathematicsrelated tasks as challenges due to their cognitive processes and beliefs. However, for people with low selfefficacy, their cognitive processes make them consider mathematical homework as a threat and cause an increase in their anxiety. In fact, selfefficacy has a mediating impact on attitude and progress in mathematics. The impact on motivation and behavior may be the result of the mediating impact of selfefficacy, because when one aims to explore or engage in an action, his/her judgment about his/her ability may affect one’s thinking, emotion, and action. Individuals with exam anxiety usually have low levels of selfefficacy. A person with exam anxiety feels helpless and is unable to control and influence exam events. In other words, the student’s level of selfefficacy has a negative correlation with their mathematical anxiety [18].
Hypothesis 3: The results of the analysis showed that the models of metacognitive beliefs and mathematical selfefficacy are not able to explain the variance of students’ mathematical anxiety. Therefore, the third hypothesis of the study was not confirmed. The obtained results are inconsistent with some reported findings [24, 25,46], indicating that measuring the level of feeling selfefficacy in mathematics and students’ expectations of themselves can be an accurate predictor of mathematical anxiety and their grades in this subject. However, these studies confirm the result [10] that there is no significant relationship between selfefficacy and exam anxiety.
The results of another study showed that [47] the students’ selfefficacy and goal orientation can significantly predict mathematical anxiety [26,45]. The role of these variables in predicting mathematical anxiety was found to be about 41%, and the remaining factors of mathematical anxiety (59%) would be explained through other variables, such as emotional and cognitive factors.
One of the reasons for the rejection of this hypothesis could be related to research tools. Subjects usually feel more freedom when answering the questions in a questionnaire; therefore, they may exert their personal opinions on the questions more compared to clinical and interview tests. Therefore, the error rate in questionnairebased studies is always higher compared to nonquestionnairebased studies. Another reason for the rejection of the above hypothesis could be due to the education program. The statistical population in this study included firstyear high school students. Since firstgrade high school students are in the transition phase from the sensitive phase of adolescence to youth, many of their emotions will be unpredictable. Therefore, it would not be possible to predict their mathematical anxiety with regard to their metacognitive beliefs and selfefficacy. The small sample size is another limitation of the present study which limits credibility and, consequently, the generalizability of the results. Therefore, the results have been affected by the sample size in the present study which is indicated by the slight correlation among the subscales of metacognitive knowledge (i.e., process knowledge, expressive knowledge, and conditional knowledge).
Conclusions
According to the finding of this study and those obtained in the previous studies, it can be concluded that students with high selfefficacy can control their anxiety in anxious situations better than those with low selfefficacy.
Compliance with ethical guidelines
All ethical principles were observed in this study. The participants were informed about the study objectives and procedures and written informed consent was obtained from them. They were also assured about the confidentiality of their information and were allowed to leave the study at any time and for any reason. The participants can have access to the study results.
Acknowledgments
None.
AuthorsΚΌ contributions
The final manuscript draft was reviewed by all authors, who also gave their approval.
Funding/Support
This study received no specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or notforprofit sectors.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declared that they have no conflict of interest to declare.
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Article Type:
Research Article 
Subject:
Anxiety and Stress Received: 2021/12/4  Accepted: 2022/06/14  Published: 2022/07/6