Category Archives: 1 Prof. Values & Personal Commitment

Maths Anxiety

Throughout my school life I had always just accepted that I was more talented in the area of languages than I was in maths. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do maths, it was simply that I felt more confident and comfortable in other school subjects.

The above is one of the reasons why I jumped at the opportunity to study the Discovering Mathematics module when it was offered as one of the second year electives. Already, I can see the positive impact that my learning from this module will have in my future career. I know that in order to teach maths and make the children in my class feel at ease with the subject then I must be confident in my own abilities and approach maths in a very open-minded way.

The Guardian article “Maths Anxiety: The Numbers are Mounting” spoke of a particular example of maths anxiety. A young girl called Flora had significant difficulties with anything related to maths however her struggles seemed to go unnoticed at school. Shortly after moving to a new school, Flora’s difficulties were noticed by her teachers and suspected that she may have dyscalculia which is a kind of dyslexia with numbers as her maths was observed to be very poor. After referral to an educational psychologist however, it was found that Flora’s problems were not down to ability but actually down to her anxiety towards maths as a subject.

Maths anxiety is extremely common and is said to affect around a quarter of the population which equates to more than 2 million school children in England alone, along with thousands of teachers.

The concept of maths anxiety was first discovered in the 1950s, however the significant effect it has on performance has only newly become evident.

A study which is also explained in The Guardian article previously mentioned above was conducted to look further into the reasons why anxiety towards mathematics affects performance in such a devastating way. Researchers at Stanford University have used scans in order to see what goes on inside the brains of children who suffer from maths anxiety, and discovered that these children respond to sums in the same way that people with phobias may reacts to snakes or spiders which increases activities in the fear centres of the brain. Increased activity in these areas causes a decrease in activity in the areas of the brain which assist problem solving which then makes it harder for the individual to come up with the correct answers.

Although maths anxiety is extremely common in today’s society, there are still no formally established diagnostic tests to decide when simply being worried about maths becomes maths anxiety. Mike Ellicock, chief executive of the charity National Numeracy states “labelling and categorising children into those who can and can’t do maths isn’t helpful. There is nothing more certain to be a self-fulfilling prophecy… but given encouragement and the right support, everyone can meet a functional level of numeracy.” This statement shows that by simply accepting that some children will cope well with maths while others will struggle, we are doing nothing for the children. If we, as teachers, encourage and support the children who have insecurities in the area of mathematics then we can help them to strive to be an individual with simple maths skills which will help them as they go forward in life. Even if these children never go onto study complex maths, by simply assisting them to go forward and use essential maths skills such as money handling or telling the time, then we have made a real difference to their life.

The above video describes some of the reasons why people get so anxious about maths. The video mentions that anxiety is more prominent in maths than it is in other subjects. There is no exact answer as to why this is however studies have suggested that the way children are exposed to maths by their parents and teachers has a major effect on how the children view maths. If parents talk about maths as something unfamiliar and challenging then the children will also adopt this view. Teachers with maths anxiety are also more likely to pass it on to the children in their class.

Both the above video and an article from The Guardian “The Fear of All Sums: How teachers can help students with maths anxiety” highlight some of the ways in which teachers can help children feel at ease with maths and encourage and support them to be successful in the subject. It is vital to give children the time and space they need to tackle a maths problem as if they are under pressure to complete something under a given time scale then this adds to the stress and will give the child a negative experience of mathematics. It is also important to go slow, beginning with the basics of a topic then slowly progressing in order to make the increasing difficulty less daunting for the learner. It is vital to make lessons fun, playing maths games is a great way to practice maths skills without the pressure of the need to get the right answer in order to get a good mark, this allows the learner to relax and enjoy their experience. The use of positive language is a great way of reassuring learners that they are doing a great job, using praise in front of their peers or parents is also a great way to boost children’s confidence.

Overall, I now feel that I will be able to approach maths in the classroom in a more confident manner as the teacher. I now know the techniques to put in place and the best possible way to approach the teaching of maths to those children who suffer from maths anxiety in order to give them the best possible chance at success in their maths studies.



Brian, K. (2012) “Maths anxiety: the numbers are mounting”, The Guardian, 30 April, no page given.

Chandran, P. (2015) “The fear of all sums: how teachers can help students with maths anxiety”, The Guardian, 17 November, no page given.

Health and Wellbeing

As part of our most recent health and wellbeing input we were advised to watch two videos about the importance of early years, pre birth-three. One of the videos was by Doctor Suzanne Zeedyk and the other was by John Carnochan OBE.

Both videos focussed on the fact that as humans, we are brought into the world much earlier in our brain development than other species due to the size of our brains. This means that children’s brains are still developing throughout the early stages of life and factors such as relationships that they have with significant people in their life and the quality of environment around them will have an impact on their brain.

A scenario focussed on in the clips is that if a child is brought up in a home wherein domestic violence takes place, the child’s brain will then be focussed on the violent environment and the stress around the, the brain will then see the world around them as a threatening place and be focussed on spotting the next threat, this can then make t difficult for a child to concentrate in a classroom setting therefore have an impact on their learning.

Due to brain development being ongoing in the early years of a child’s life, it is important that children have significant others in their life and a safe, consistent environment to ensure that their brain development assists their learning and does not hinder it. For some children the only place that they will have this safe, consistent and supportive environment is within nursery or school.

By watching the videos I am now more aware of the importance we have, as primary practitioners to ensure that children have this safe and consistent environment available to them as many will not have it at home. I feel as though having this knowledge will impact on my professional practice as I will ensure that my classroom is a place in which my pupils feel safe and supported and I will aim to be a significant other in the life’s of my pupils to ensure I can aid their brain development and watch them grow as learners and also as individuals.

Values Workshop

On Tuesday we had our first workshop in the values module, I didn’t really know what to expect going into the workshop so when Derek handed us a brown envelope and gave us the instructions that we had to make something that would be useful to a new student at the university I just assumed that the task was a way to get us to work well in a group with people that we don’t particularly know very well.

After opening the envelope and realising we had very little in the means of resources we came up with the idea to make a personalised leaflet that would help a new student get used to the campus and the surroundings. We then had to feedback to the rest of the groups about our ideas before making the item, it was at this point we realised that group 1 and group 2 had noticeably more resources than our group(group 3) and group 4.

During the production of the item we began to notice that Derek was spending the majority of his time with group 1, praising them for their efforts whilst not really paying much attention to group 3 or group 4. We then made our leaflet and got ready to present the item to the other group. Group 1 got a fantastic response from Derek, as did group 2, we then presented ours thinking we had done exceptionally well given the resources we had access to however we were disappointed in the feedback given, it was around that time that we realised something was going on.

After realising what the message behind the workshop actually was it really made me think. It made me think about how, as a teacher, we must take into account each and every little detail to make each pupil feel involved and included, we cannot expect every pupil to produce the same standards of work if they do not have access to the same standard and quality  of resources, which links to inequality in society. As future teachers, we should strive to make the atmosphere in the classroom one that is as equal and fair as possible.

The workshop was extremely enjoyable and interesting for me and I feel that it will be beneficial to me throughout my time at university and my time as a teacher, this workshop will definitely be one that will stay in my memory for a long time!