Monthly Archives: October 2017

Maths is Fun?

For me, even the word “maths” has connotations of dread, boredom and simply just not enjoyable. Traditionally, maths is taught on a blackboard, followed by textbook work to consolidate the learning. What if, however, you simply don’t understand the explanation, switch off halfway through because you aren’t engaged and then have no idea how to complete the textbook work? This cycle then repeats itself and you progressively become more and more lost, which kicks in feelings of panic and anxiety. I personally feel as though this was my main issue in school, resulting in my hatred towards the subject. How could this cycle be reversed? The key to this is making the subject engaging to pupils.

The Boring Subject

I think many of us would agree that maths is one of the more boring subjects out there. This was my view anyway, until after some of Eddies inputs. We were shown a few ways that maths can be taught in a more active and engaging way, which made me realise maths can be fun! I think it is extremely important that maths is active and engaging and had it been presented to me in this way, I would have a very different outlook on it. Making a maths lesson more memorable is more likely to have an impact on the pupil and make it easier for them to remember concepts and start to make links to other areas within the subject. In addition, if they are enjoying what they are doing they will associate that feeling with the subject. In turn this will decrease the feelings of maths anxiety.

Maths and Art

I was in Spain this summer and walked through many streets with pretty tiles, the floors in our hostel were even tiled. I didn’t look at them and think of maths, shape and symmetry, I just thought they were aesthetically pleasing. After Eddies workshop about creative maths, I realised that maths is all around us in a variety of creative ways. What I was looking at were different tessellations, that had all individually be planned out and put together using shapes that fit. We had the chance to create our own, and I found it very engaging.

We used three different shapes to create this, however, some that we were looking at had as many as 8 or more! This activity forced you to think about the different shapes and all the ways the shapes can fit, without realising you were doing maths. This was a stress free maths activity, one of the very few I have experienced. This is exactly the type of stress free environment I want to create in my classroom.

Maths Anxiety

What is maths anxiety? According to Mark H Ashcraft, chair of the department of psychology at the University of Nevada, maths anxiety is “a feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear that interferes with math performance” (Guardian, 2015). These feelings of fear are something that I can relate to, as I have experienced them myself. This was one of the main reasons behind my decision to take this module, as I want to overcome this before going into the profession.

Where Does it Come From?

Maths anxiety typically stems from a previous bad experience relating to the subject. I can vividly remember sitting in my primary 5 class with tears rolling down my face, all because I couldn’t grasp the concept being taught. This then developed my hatred for maths and I began to believe I wasn’t a ‘maths person.’ Still to this day, the idea of completing a maths question makes my brain freeze.

Some pupils, however, have developed anxiety towards maths through their parents and this is alarming. Parents influence their child’s life heavily and therefore can pass down values and attitudes towards particular subjects in school. With maths being viewed, by many, as a subject you are either good or bad at, this makes it a popular subject to ‘hate’ and dismiss. The seeds of maths anxiety can be planted with a simple comment such as “I hated maths at school.” It is important that children don’t adopt these negative attitudes towards the subject as it can lead them into a negative mind set, which can often be difficult to reverse.

How it Effects The Profession

Maths anxiety is a ‘thing’ and needs to be recognised, as according to researchers it effects up to two million children! This is where the role of the teacher becomes important. We need to be able to identify maths anxiety in children and use a variety of methods to help the pupil to overcome and conquer this feeling. Some signs of maths anxiety include paranoia, the child believes they are the only one incapable of solving the question or passive behaviour, the child will do anything but solve the question they are faced with. Going slowly and using concepts children are already confident with to develop their skills further is one method that can help to ease maths anxiety in pupils.

Not only is it important for teachers to recognise maths anxiety in their pupils, but also in themselves. As stated previously maths anxiety can be passed down through parents and the same applies with teachers. We are also an influential figure to children and therefore it is crucial that we are confident with the subject ourselves. This will then enable us to provide thorough explanations of each concept and have a bank of solutions to help the pupils identify the easiest methods to suit their learning. This is especially important for me as I am aware of the feelings I have towards maths and I am conscious that they need to change, in order to provide the best education I can for my pupils. I also do not want the children I teach to experience maths in the same way that I did.

Moving Forward

Now that I am aware of the impact a teacher can have on how children view maths, I know that I need to change the way I feel about the subject. It will require self development and confidence in my own skills. I enjoy maths when I grasp the concept and see my answer match the answer section. I need to remember that feeling and apply it to all areas of maths.