Poor Performance in Undergraduate Math: Can We Blame it on COVID-19 Despair?
- Select Volume / Issue:
- Type of Publication:
- COVID-19, Math Anxiety, Remote Learning, Active Learning, Adaptive Learning
- Jeffrey Ludwig
- The COVID-19 pandemic has been described as an invisible terrorist, spreading in a matter of weeks across the globe despite the best efforts of public health agencies to temper its virulence. As COVID-19 cases grew exponentially in early 2020, a cascade of university closures in the United States of America ensued. Both students and teachers alike were thrust into an emergent and unprecedented situation where classes transitioned from in-person to online almost overnight. The negative ramifications of COVID-19 were widespread and especially detrimental to educational systems that have traditionally relied on in-person interactions to prosper. In this environment, general anxiety towards learning mathematics was amplified. Despair due to COVID-19 emerged in society and impeded life in a multitude of ways, and remote learning presented its own unique challenges to university education. In this paper we set out to investigate the causes of poor performance in an undergraduate math finance class containing 120 students in the Spring of 2021. Three potential causes were considered and evaluated based on online student surveys given at the beginning of the class: 1) general anxiety towards mathematics, 2) despair due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 3) aversion to remote learning. In contrast to prior studies, math anxiety did not correlate strongly with poor performance. Furthermore, students with COVID-19 despair who believed that COVID-19 significantly impaired their ability to learn math, scored the worst. And finally, remote learning had a relatively neutral effect on performance. Our study suggests that COVID-19 despair and all of the social, psychological and emotional stress that comes with it, may play a significant role in determining poor student performance.
Full text: IJISM_934_FINAL.pdf [Bibtex]