Stereotypes/myths and Maths Anxiety 

Does maths stereotype and myths lead  maths anxiety?

Okay so, we have all heard the common”I can’t do maths,” “maths is too hard,” or “I’m not a maths person, I’m better at language.” But are these all true? The answer is NO.

Okay, to be fair I have said these once or twice in my life but now through the development of my academic career, throughout this module and my own education I have learned it is not as scary as it seems. Honestly, my mum decided she wasn’t a maths person this is where I decided I wasn’t too. However, I have a twin sister that is wonderful at maths so she was known as the ‘one’ who was good as maths and I was known as the ‘one’ who was good at language. Thats always how it has been, but why…

So when I was thinking of this I asked my sister what she thought of maths in primary school, her reply was: “I loved it, my favourite subject.” Whereas when I thought of this question I reflected on my maths experience as painful and difficult. As my sister began to dig deeper into her maths experience she quickly realised that the only reason she received a A in Higher Mathematics was due to her love of maths.

So this made me think, maths stereotyping and myths actually can lead to maths anxiety and hatred and this is where my blog starts.

So essentially, no child can just diagnose themselves as bad at maths or not a maths person. However, their environment and role models can inform their decision making around this. This is particularly seen in older children opposed to younger children. So role models, what do I mean by that? This could be siblings, parents, grandparents, sport instructors even teachers.

“…mathematics anxious teachers may serve to foster the early development of mathematics anxiety among their students” Arem (2010, p.30)

All these people can act as role models or influencers for that child and if they begin to say ‘oh, maths isn’t my thing,’ then the child may begin to think that that is the same for them, although this is not the case.

Everyone is, whether they know it or not, capable of learning maths. 

Inheriting these negative stereotypes may stop the child from opening their full potential in mathematics for the rest of their lives.

Okay so how do we get this across? Firstly, children must understand every mistake is a lesson and that if they don’t achieve the correct answer for one sum thats fine, they must just pick themselves up and start again and continue to preserve in their mathematic journey. Simple things like these have the ability to boost children mathematical confidence.

Okay so what is maths stereotypes and myths? Well to name a few…

  • The maths gene myths – some people inherit maths skills
  • You don’t need maths myths – how is this relevant to my life
  • The drill and repeat myth – repetition makes you good at maths
  •  The Right way myth – there is only ever one solution
  • The memory and speed myth – basically just memorising and writing what you have remembered down quickly in a test/exam

(Teachers Professional Resource, undated)

Okay so can this cause maths anxiety? I believe yes.
These stereotypes and myths may induce children’s fear of mathematics and develop a strong math anxiety for the child.

I understand mathematical anxiety to be children who have a genuine fear of maths so much that they dread the time of the day where maths is about to be taught. It gives them a sense of failure and unhappiness in their abilities. Hembree (1990, pp.45)  describes this further as  “a general fear of contact with mathematics, including classes, homework and tests.” Okay so I was right, it is a general fear of mathematics but why? This, amongst many other reasons is due to, maths stereotyping and myths.

Skemp (1989, pp.25) again describes maths as a  “conditioned anxiety stimulus.” Again another person relating maths to anxiety.  Okay, so what can we tell from this? Maths anxiety does exist and it is appearing in a number of young people today.

So how can we solve maths anxiety?

  • Positive reinforcement – stop the myths and stereotyping!!
  • Extra learning/teaching on the area the child struggles at
  • Reframe anxiety – have children write down what they are worried about and set a challenge to overcome it
  • Make maths more interactive, have group activities

(Oxford Learning, Undated)

So now we have established the links, if we reduce the amount of people stereotyping and producing myths to children at a young age they may grow up to have a love for maths, just like my sister. She was positively encouraged and reassured her maths skills was excellent and she went on to great things even has choose a degree area in university surrounding this. So this helps us to understand, if we stop the negativity surrounding maths positive outcomes may blossom.

Heres an interesting video I found to help overcome maths anxiety  that I would like to share with you:

So to answer my question:

Does maths stereotype and myths lead  maths anxiety? I believe it strongly does, without these myths being planted into children ears of maths being difficult children would experience maths in their own way and this could turn into something beautiful.  The Conservative newspaper (2013) has produced a article which explains that their is strong links between stereotyping and anxiety. It also states that a classroom without these educational barriers is a classroom without fear, essentially stop stereotyping and telling children myths. Experiences that have happened to one person may not happen to another.


  • Hembree, R. (1990) ‘The nature, effects and relief of mathematics anxiety’, Journal for Research in Mathematics Education,21, pp.33-46.
  • Skemp, R. R. (1989) Mathematics in the Primary School. London:Routledge.
  • Arem, C. A. (2010). Conquering math anxiety: A self-help workbook. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
  • Teachers Professional Resource, LLC (undated) 5 Common Maths Myths Available at: (Accessed on 23/10/18)
  • Oxford Learning (undated) What is Maths Anxiety?  Available at: (Accessed on 23/10/18)
  • Available at: (Accessed on 23/10/18)





Maths Ability Groups

A good thing or a bad thing?

This is a topic which interested me so much I decided to find out for myself what does this actually do to children and their learning/development?

Obviously, we all know that maths is a complex concept which many children have difficulty understanding within the classroom as it is without the pressure of being in the highest attainment group.  This is something I saw often in my own placement. Are we right to arrange children in ‘ability’ groups? Does this change children’s perception of mathematics? Does this encourage children to give up? I believe that arranging children in different ability groups has the ability to boost confidence but also to drop confidence.

Okay so what are ability groups?

My understanding of this is being arranged in groups according to academic strategies, which is not always your academic preference. Take me for example, in school I was in the bottom group for language and the top for maths, but I too HATED maths, but I now ask myself was that because I was in the bottom group? Was I not getting pushed enough?

However, Hallinan et al. (2003, pp. 95) suggests that the theory of mathematic ability groups is to ideally get full potential out of all student learning and development but realistically does this happen? I would agree with Hallinan et al no.

In reality this is not the case. It can also be shown that Hallinan et al believe that assigning children in different ability groups highly restrict learning opportunities for children. So how are children supposed to find mathematics easy when their learning in the classroom is significantly narrowed due to the group they have been assigned?

I believe that giving children different attainment groups will begin to make the children may begin to feel discouraged in their mathematic abilities and begin to give up therefore reduce their confidence and growth mindset in maths. This can encourage children to have a certain feel about mathematics that they can’t do it or it’s too hard. This is commonly seen in lower ability groups in maths.

The BBC News tried to unpick the issue of maths ability groups. The article entitled “Should young children be grouped by ability?” (2017) Something that really touched my heart in this where a child quoted ‘I really hoped to be a doctor like my mum but that changed when I have moved down a group” Should children really have to change their dreams due to their math’s ability group?

From my personal experience of maths grouping I would agree with this statement, as bad as it sounds I once changed a dream due to my academic success in maths. When I was little I wanted to be a lawyer, just like members of my family and that dream ended in secondary school where I was put again in the lowest maths class, is that right?

So what does this do to children? Do they begin to feel like a failure? Or that they aren’t getting pushed enough? Personally… I believe yes. Why?

Well, due to the fact that some groups are being taught differently and more important different stuff. From my experience of primary school, children are given different work for their individual topics depending on what group they are in. By the end of the topic children in the lower groups hadn’t covered nearly the same stuff as children in the top groups, personally I believe this is profoundly unfair. But why do they do that?

This is supported by Pritchard (2012) as they believe that maths ability groups does not allow children to achieve the full benefit for the curriculum due to the groups varying the different aspects of maths. Not all children achieve the same education as others.

Right okay, so maths ability groups are sounding bad at the moment.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom…

I came across a very interesting document produced by the Dr Marks, NCETM (2012) that shows the pros of having maths ability groups. The thing I found most interesting about this document is that it give children a sense of identity and a feeling of being apart of something with in the class. I found this really quite touching, this gives children the chance to make friends and relationships within their class and even grow confidence in their learning.

Furthermore, maths ability groups allow children to have a group discussion and allow help from other members of their groups which are working at the same level/work as them. This may in fact boost confidence for maths knowing they are not going through it alone and can seek help from peers as well as the teacher.

Okay so, after this research I have came to the conclusion that I believe that maths ability groupings has pro’s and cons. It is something which I have speculated upon a lot and have decided that I agree with maths ability groupings to aid all children in work through discussions etc however, I believe all children should be initially taught the same material where they then choose how far they wish to progress with it, this is something I will choose to do in my future teaching.


  • Hallinan, M.T et al. (2003) ‘Ability Grouping and Student Learning’   Education Policy (6) pp. 95
  • ‘Should you children be grouped by ability?’ (2017) Available at: (accessed on 23/10/17)
  • Pritchard, R. (2012) The Influence of Ability Grouping on Math Achievement in a Rural Middle School New Jersey, USA: Seton Hall University
  • Marks, R (2012) Well-meant intentions: ability-grouping in primary mathematics King’s College, London: NCETM

Creative Maths

Does creative mathematics have more of an impact?

I have been thinking a great deal about this question…

Does maths have to be boring? Does the stereotypes have to continue? How can I improve maths attainment in my teaching? Well, I have researched thoroughly and have put my thoughts and research down and now I am sharing it here.

Okay so what is creative maths?

Before we begin to explore this we should ask ourselves, what is creative mathematics? Creative Mathematics, according to Wall (2012), “is not a compendium of mathematical facts and inventions to be read over as a connoisseur of art looks over paintings.” This in fact suggests that creative mathematics allows children to delve into their imagination and explore the wonders of numbers, numeracy, shape and measure etc.

Why would we use creative mathematics? How does this impact?

Creativity in maths allows growth of the mind of individuals. However, this is an area of mathematics which is neglected in primary schools. According to Sriraman (2004) believes that without creativity within mathematics children can’t achieve their full potential within their mathematical journey. This suggests that using the mind in a more creative way whilst learning mathematic skills will help children grasp the basics and adapt their minds more fully to different concepts and their overall understanding of maths. This therefore would suggest that exploring different concepts in mathematics has a greater impact for understanding maths. This statement really made me think, if children cannot explore mathematics how do we improve problem solving skills? How do we raise attainment if we cannot engage their minds fully in the lesson? Children could just be sitting bored and not listening, how do we solve this?


I found that Tucker (2014) also would agree with this. It can be seen through Tuckers extensive research that creative mathematics connects  the psychological and the physical mathematical learning development within children. Essentially, this means that learning mathematics through creative methods in a primary school can promote educational development but also provide links with other areas of development for example, core motor skills. So in the early years this should be something we should all consider, right? I want you to reflect upon this, if maths wasn’t made creative or interactive would you like to learn it? What is timetables was just copying out continuously the tables on a white board with no fun activity to try and help remember.   So really, in order for children to feel confident in their mathematic development they must be able to make choices and explore their finding of mathematics AND HAVE FUN! Also, this, from an early stage, can help children decide what is the best learning style for them but also encourage excitement and enthusiasm towards the subject within school and out with school.

So, a win win right?

Something that is clear educational development theories of making maths creative has not changed over the years. In fact, I would go as far to say that creative learning supplies learners with the basic knowledge to explore the different experiences on a more personal level and make maths more relevant to them. However, creativity in the maths classroom is not just about what pupils do what also what we do as teachers. Boaler (2015) supports this as she believes that we need to think about creatively about the mathematical experiences we offer our pupils, by doing so we can open up opportunities for them to be creative.

Olkin and Schoenfeld (1994) states that:

“The joy of confronting a novel situation and trying to make sense of it – the joy of banging your head off a mathematical wall, and then discovering that there may be ways of either going around or over that wall”

This suggests that children are aware of their boundaries, and by given clear indication about what knowledge to apply to the specific problem, can explore and be creative about mathematical problems which can leave so much room for children to interpret and value their individual ideas and thoughts. This therefore suggests that mathematical creativity has a greater impact in the classroom than that of traditional mathematics.

So can we make creative maths through play?

Is it possible to say that mathematics and play could intertwine in the classroom and at home? Could a child possibly improve their maths skills and knowledge by playing with toys and their friends?

According to Curricular Guidance for Preschool Education (2018)

“play is an effective vehicle for fostering Mathematical concepts and developing positive attitudes to mathematics.”

Creative mathematics is essential to developing children’s growth mindset and outlook on life. This is such an important thing to focus on in the early years mathematics classroom, bringing fun into mathematics has the ability to change perspectives of mathematics from a fairly young age. I cannot stress this enough after my research findings, we must include this in the early years.

From another lecture, we was discussing and learning about  learning and development for children, this is something I found really interesting.  So I have decided to  to speak about this. Something to realise is, maths is all around us, even if we least expect it. Lev Vvgotsky began a theory that children’s learning and development improve during the ‘zone of proximal development.’ The zone of proximal development is the difference between what a learner can do without help, and what a learner can do with the help of a more able other, for an example a teacher or teaching assistant.

Surely, the teaching of maths can be influenced by relating the subject to the child’s own knowledge and experience. So really, I think this helps us to understand why is creativity such an important aspect of learning maths, as it allows the child to personalise it and be able to relate it back to themselves in a more real life experience.

I found this really interesting, Saracho (1986, cited in Saracho and Spodek, 2003, p.77) suggests that when children play, they are able to involve themselves in social situations, and help them achieve skills such as sharing, helping and empathy. Therefore, play is extremely important to children’s learning, for the following reasons:

  • allows children to experiment
  • provides meaningful contexts
  • promotes social learning
  • encourages perservance

(Early Years Matter, undated)

Through playing, children can move in and out of reality, and express their feelings. they can choose any setting or time and create a different life and in that use different types of creative mathematics to make their dreams come to life, for example counting how much unicorns or how much time there is until the next dual, even using maths to create a fort in their living rooms simple problem solving in a creative way can improve children’s mathematical skills and abilities. As a child this is something I clung to, who knew maths was involved in this?

Nutbrown (1994) said ‘mathematics is never far away from explaining a child’s actions,’ this again tells us all the different ideas or exploration children display from their minds always links back to mathematics in some way or another. Children using creativity in their everyday school life will help their fundamental understanding of the mathematics they are learning and why they are learning it, and vice versa they might use their skills they acquire in school to make their play more meaningful and give it more an educational purpose.

So how does play help? Is there evidence? Yes there is… According Dr Karyn Purvis (2016) “scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain of children – unless it is done through play, in which case, it takes between 10 and 20 repetitions.” More on this can be seen through the following video:

The quality of children’s play is greatly influenced by the opportunities around them. As teachers we can provide materials and encouragement and open the door to new activities and learning.

Right so I’ve rambled on about why we should use creative maths, but does creative mathematics have a better impact to children?

So, does creative mathematics have a better impact for teaching and learning mathematics? I would say yes. Why?

Children retain more information the more it is related to real life situations and experiences. When maths is more creative children will make connections to situations in life where they have experienced this, for example, when learning money and change, the problem may be “Ben was at the shop and spent £1 on chocolate and £1.50 on crisps how much did he spend in total?” this allows children to build a relationship within the mathematics classroom. So yes I believe making maths more creative whether through play, problem solving or other cross curricular subjects will make children more engaged and happy with their learning.


  • Wall, H. (2012) Creative Mathematics Washington D.C.: Mathematical Association of America
  • Sriraman, B. (2004) ‘The Characteristics of Mathematical Creativity’ The Mathematics Educator 14(1) pp. 19-34
  • Tucker, K. (2014)Mathematics through play in the early years Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications
  • Olkin, I. and A. Schoenfeld, H. (1994) A discussion of Bruce Reznick’s Chapter (Some thoughts on writing for the Putnam) Mathematical thinking and problem solving. Schoenfeld, A.H. Hillside NJ, Lawerence Erlbraum: 39-51
  • Boaler, J. (2015) Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative TeachingNew Jersey, USA: John Wiley & Sons
  • Karyn Purvis Institute of child development. Children from hard places and the brain: chapter 1. Available at: (Accessed on: 5 October 2018)
  • Department of Education (2018) Curricular Guidance for Preschool Education London: Education Scotland
  • Department of Education (2013) Creativity across learning 3-18 London: Education Scotland
  • Department of Education (2018) Maths through play London: Education Scotland
  • Saracho, O. and Spodek, B. (2003) Contemporary Perspectives on Play in Early Childhood EducationCharlotte, U.S: Information Age Publishing
  • Nutbrown, C. (1994) Threads of Thinking: Young Children Learning and the Role of Early Education London: Paul Chapman Publishing
  • Early Years Matters (Undated) Play and Learning Available at: (Accessed on 23/10/18)

Chance and Probability

What is the odds that you’ll win a toy playing the ‘claw’ arcade game?

First of all we should probably consider what is probability and chance. So what is Probability?

Basically probability is how likely something is to going to happen. Lots of different things can be said to be probable to happen for example, the common phrase ‘it’s probably going to rain today.’ This is the common phrase of deciding if something is going to happen. I can better explain this through the common tossing of a simple coin. As you toss a coin there can only ever be two results, either heads or tails. The probability of getting a head is ½ and likewise with tails. This is just a simple way of explaining what probability is.

Okay so now we understand probability. What is chance? Well, chance is similar to probability in the sense that chance is the likelihood that a particular outcome will occur.

So now we understand these definitions… let’s get into some real life situations of chance and probability. When I was sitting during this lecture, I began to think deeply about chance and probability and I began to think of the important question I ask myself every time I lose at the arcade. What is the chance and probability of winning the claw toy arcade game?

This here is an example of the machine I am referring to. And now everyone is asking their selves the same question. HOW DO WE WIN THIS?

Well I’m glad you have asked because I have done some research for this and have calculated the chance and probability of winning.

These claw games are designed so the claw sporadically gets strong enabling the player to win the prize. In my research I have found that some even weaken the strength after a short time so individuals get a sense of victory before it is taken from their reach. This game actually  is programmed to ensure players cannot win this game. Unfair, right? So what is in the programme? Well, it is set to only go strong after 21 games. So you have to play 20 games before you can win the prize. Well, that’s not the only disturbing part, it can even be programmed to go make the claw weak after 10-25 seconds.

So what is the chance and probability of winning?

As I have mentioned previously, in order to be lucky in winning this game you have to play 20 games before you will hit a lucky strike and win a prize. Due to such high odds the chance that people are likely to win is slim. Some people might hit it lucky and begin the game on the 21st cycle however, other people may take at least 21 tries before becoming successful. This is a very frustrating but addictive game that everyone will have at least tried once. So why do they do this?

Phil Edwards (Daily Mail, 2015) discovered many of them are rigged for profit. With the settings being changed continuously from weak to strong, this suggests that the game down to hugely luck rather than skill. Edwards comprised a video (situated below) that explains the operator of the machines can set how often they pay out, and the strength of the claw will be dictated by how much money has been put in.

How are they rigged? Well… say a prize costs £5, and it is 20p or 30p to play each time and the operator wants a profit of 50 percent, the claw will only allow the player to win one out of every 21 games. Edwards has proven this through his careful studying of the machines.

It is important to remember: this is randomised, though, so the winning game cannot be counted or worked out.

The chance of winning is 1 in 15 people would receive a  prize from the claw machine, this is a huge profit to all arcade companies.So basically, the game is receiving 2 to 5 more money and profit because of this impossible game.

Can you increase your chances of winning?

To increase your chances of winning you should look do some research into machines with a fixed strength. Right okay, so what does this mean? Basically, the claw that grabs applies the same grip each time and then does not weaken after the prize is claimed.  You can also increase your chances by going for stuff close to the drop zone and stuff that is on top and not blocked by lots of other and heavier prizes.

So overall from my research, I have discovered that the chance and probability of this claw machine cannot in fact be measured or calculated  to ensure a concrete win. However, if you play the game approximately 21 times you will have a higher probability of winning this game.