Maths is the subject I have always been less enthusiastic about. I, like many other people associate maths with fear, dread, failure and disappointment. I know that as a teacher it is the ‘responsibility of all’ to teach maths and increase pupil engagement and confidence with numeracy. I need to be the person that shows my own enthusiasm for this subject in order for my pupils to reflect this positive behaviour – but how can I do this when every time I think about teaching maths I fill with complete dread? The answer is to face my fear of maths head on and change my relationship with numbers into a positive one.
In the input today, Tara Harper made a very powerful point on how she feels innumeracy should be just as unacceptable as illiteracy. There are far too many children in today’s generation as well as my own that lack basic maths skills and ultimately this will be detrimental to the rest of their lives. I think it is unfortunate that so many children struggle with maths. As I can relate to this all too well I understand why so many children end up giving up on this at such an early age. I was fortunate enough to have a really supportive teacher in primary school who reminded me during math lessons that even the best mathematicians in the world struggled and made mistakes before getting the right answer. There is nothing in life that comes to you without understanding what not to do. I have always remembered this message, and it is what pushed me through my fears of maths all the way through both primary and secondary school. I hope to take this positive outlook with me on my professional journey to give the children in my class reassurance and confidence in their work and prove to them that there are several different ways in finding the answer in maths.
Maths surrounds us, even when we don’t realise it. Whether it is reading bus timetables or working out when to set our alarms in the morning. If children have this thought engrained into them that they can’t do maths, then daily activities such as these will become difficult. We take these simple concepts for granted, as they are very different from the Pythagoras and BODMAS that you teach in the classroom. It is our role as a teacher to break maths down into different, easier to grasp components, to show children the everyday uses of math and make it clear to them that they CAN do maths.
It is important to always highlight to children that they can improve. One factor that knocks childrens confidence when it comes to maths is being told blatantly that what they have done is wrong. Adults have the responsibility to tell children that it’s okay to make mistakes, and that the mistakes they make are just learning opportunities for them to do better next time. Helping a child understand where they went wrong step by step can reassure them that they can do maths and will help them overcome their maths anxiety. This will ultimately allow their confidence to grow, making it easier for them to progress within the subject.
Overall, overcoming maths anxiety is the way in which I can become a better practitioner. Sharing enthusiasm for maths with the children will mean that we will all develop a positive relationship with each other and for the subject. Getting over my fear of maths is the only way in which I can enforce it in the classroom, and further develop my skills as a teacher.