The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented changes in the educational system, requiring students to continually switch between distance and in-person learning conditions. Recent studies have revealed that students experienced severe levels of anxiety in the COVID-19 period. Considering the close relationship that has always linked anxiety to mathematics, the present study explores the differences in the anxiety levels of students towards mathematics during distance or in-person school learning. During the second wave of COVID-19, 405 students, recruited from twelve- middle schools of Catania province (Italy), completed an online version of the MeMa questionnaire, answering each item twice and imagining themselves to be, respectively, in distance and in-person learning conditions. The items explored generalized school anxiety, learning and evaluation mathematics anxiety, mental states, and the metacognitive awareness associated with mathematical tasks. The results showed a minor state of anxiety experienced during distance learning. However, the students who preferred to learn mathematics in person revealed less mathematics anxiety and better mental states and metacognitive awareness; the same results were found in those who reported higher math marks and who preferred scientiﬁc subjects. It seems that math anxiety is not one of the various ﬂaws that are imputed to distance learning. Our ﬁndings encourage a reﬂection on possible interventions to reduce students’ anxiety by working on motivation and dysfunctional beliefs.
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