When choosing my elective, I had to think rationally about what would have the most influence on my future career. Maths was the one subject that leapt out at me on the elective list. But not in a good way. I, like many other people, associate the word ‘maths’ with fear, horror, failure and disappoint. I eventually chose this elective, as I wanted to change this thinking and my feelings about maths.
Teachers can be placed in a difficult position. If they don’t understand or like a subject they cannot pass this on to their pupils. As many lecturers said during placement “faking it, till you make it” is vital. If we don’t fake our confidence within a subject and our teaching, then the children will see through this and adopt the same attitudes. Kelly and Tomhave (1985) found that primary school teachers have the ability to transmit their own anxiety about maths to their pupils. This, multiplied by 20-33 pupils, has the ability to influence children from age 5 to adulthood, which could have a detrimental effect on their future careers and their own children.
Maths plays a prominent part in our everyday activities, from reading bus timetables, to working out when to set an alarm. If children begin to believe that they can’t do maths, then easy everyday activities can become a difficulty. I remember telling two of my high school maths teachers that maths was impossible and I didn’t understand anything. The first, told me that maths wasn’t for everyone and maybe more English based subjects were my forte. The second, broke it down for me. He asked me if I could read a clock, count money, organise my day. All of which I agreed to. He then told me that maths is not just ‘find the equation’ or Pythagoras, but it was simple concepts that we take for granted. As teachers, we have to break maths into different components, to show children the everyday uses of maths to highlight to them that they CAN do maths.
A study carried out by the university of Cambridge shows that anxiety in any subject can prevent progression in learning. Having your mind tell you that you cannot do something can be one of the most detrimental things. Children need to know that they can improve and they can do maths. One factor that may knock a child’s confidence is always being told they’re wrong. Adults have a responsibility to tell children that it’s fine to get things wrong and it is just a learning curve that they can overcome. Teachers in particular need to be careful about constantly using a cross beside wrong answers or using the dreaded red pen. Instead, helping a child understand step by step where they went wrong and reassuring them that they can do maths, will hopefully prevent maths anxiety. Therefore, their confidence will maths can flourish in everyday uses and in the classroom.
Overall, my main goal with discovering maths is to develop a positive relationship with the subject and finally believe that I can do maths to develop my skills as a teacher.
Cne.psychol.cam.ac.uk. (2018). The Relationship Between Maths Anxiety and Maths Performance — Centre for Neuroscience in Education. [online] Available at: https://www.cne.psychol.cam.ac.uk/the-relationship-between-maths-anxiety-and-maths-performance [Accessed 15th September].
Schwarzer, D., Bloom, M. and Shono, S. (2006). Research As A Tool for Empowerment. Greenwich, Conn.: Information Age Pub., p.4.