Shiverick conducts math anxiety study at UW-Platteville

December 20, 2013

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PLATTEVILLE, Wis.­­­ — Dr. Sean Shiverick, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, is conducting a research study for students who identify themselves as having high math anxiety. “I want to help students manage the negative emotions they experience in relation to math,” said Shiverick. “The beneficial effects of mindfulness meditation for stress reduction and emotional regulation have been demonstrated in research studies.”

“Mindfulness is a form of meditation that involves simply training our attention,” said Shiverick. “Much of the time, we go through our daily routines automatically, without being fully aware of our thoughts and emotions. We may be thinking about future plans or events in the past. When we start paying attention to our experiences in the present moment, such as our breathing, body sensations, thoughts, or emotions, we can tune in to what is going on here and now. Meditation is relaxing and has other health benefits.” Shiverick completed the training program at the UW-Health Mindfulness Center in Madison.

Shiverick began his research project in 2012 and has worked with a small group of students each semester. The study is ongoing and available to all students. Several engineering students have participated in the study, reporting elevated math anxiety. Students who volunteer to participate in the study commit to meeting once a week for six-weeks. Each week, the group practices a different mindfulness exercise and students are encouraged to engage in daily practice. Attention to breathing and body posture is a focus of these activities. Students complete a questionnaire regarding their math anxiety and their ability to regulate negative emotions at the beginning and end of the study.

“Anxiety can undercut students’ academic performance,” said Shiverick. “If they can decrease their anxiety, they may be able to improve their performance. By simply training our attention over the course of several weeks, we can lower our stress, reduce anxiety, and improve psychological well-being.”

Previous research on mindfulness has not looked specifically at math anxiety. “The initial results are promising,” said Shiverick. “Students who took part in the study showed reduced levels of math anxiety. In the future, I would like to work with more students and continue the study. Anyone is free to take part in the study.”

The Scholarly Activity Improvement Fund (SAIF) supports Shiverick’s research.

Earlier in 2013, Shiverick presented his research at the Association for Psychological Science convention in Washington, D.C. “There is a great deal of interest in mindfulness currently among scientists and practitioners, and researchers are trying to understand how it all works.” said Shiverick.

Contact: Dr. Sean Shiverick, assistant professor, psychology department, (608) 342-1693, shiverick@uwplatt.edu.

Written by: Ethan Giebel, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194, giebele@uwplatt.edu

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