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.

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