The Math Brain Myth

Maths was always a favourite subject of mine at school, however I suffered from maths anxiety. I only ever begun feeling anxious towards maths when i studied both national 5 and higher mathematics. I used to think that there was only one set way of doing each type of question and the only way i knew was they way that my teacher taught. I suffered from anxiety during my exams as I am a perfectionist and so I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to learn the exact method I was taught. I truly believe that I was not the only one, therefore I feel that it is important that teachers make students aware that there is not just one right method!

The University Of Cambridge (2017)  defined the term ‘Maths Anxiety’ as “a feeling of tension and anxiety that interferes with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems in … ordinary life and academic situations”. I agree with this statement! Going to maths classes used to make me anxious and this was a barrier when it came to the learning of maths. I used to believe that I was not born with a ‘maths bairn’ and so this always stood in the way of my success. Kapner, L. (2017) states that J Boaler, a Standford Professor, believes that there is no such thing as a ‘math brain’. Kapner, L. (2017) further describes that by believing the math brain myth, this lowers students academic performance in mathematics. I truly believe that my under performance in mathematics in first to third year was due to thinking that i was not born with a maths trained brain. However this changed in fourth year! Lets have a look at how I changed my ways of thinking…

In order to overcome the maths brain myth, I used positive reinforcement. Willis, J. (2017) describe how enjoyment a positivity are essential for learning to effectively occur. It is further explained that by having a stressed mental state, this limits how focused you are on the task and restricts your learning ability. By changing my mindset towards maths completely, I felt that I was more open to learning different approaches to questions. By allowing myself to do this, I feel that this helped to relax me when dealing with maths problems and I could use a few different methods to approach the question.


University Of Cambridge (2017 ) What is Mathematics Anxiety? , Available at: [Accessed: 20th October 2018].

Kapner, L. (2017) The Myth of the Math Brain , Available at: (Accessed: 22nd October 2018).

Willis, J. (2017 ) Busting math myths to create math-positive attitudes, Available at: (Accessed: 23nd October 2018).

1 thought on “The Math Brain Myth

  1. Jonathan Brown

    Hi Emma, it was great to read about your change in mindset and how this has effected your relationship with maths.


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