I always saw Maths as an important subject, an important subject to be passed not enjoyed. When I was in school there was a complete lack of enjoyment within this subject, there was no creativity within the provided work, it was very much copying questions from a textbook. This procedural approach didn’t ensure the understanding of the different topics; my class and I could remember each topic as we worked on them, although by the stage we moved on to another topic, we couldn’t properly remember the correct information. This then triggered negative attitudes towards mathematics creating an intense and uncomfortable environment to work in which immediately affected my confidence levels.
My experience in school is a common one, as a big problem within schools and for children is that maths can be portrayed as something which is hard to do but is expected to be completed. This automatically complicates the subject and thus children internalise this thought which ultimately will affect their feelings towards maths as well as their work. Moreover, children can begin to believe maths is a subject you can or cannot do, if you fall in either category the sense of enjoyment is somewhat lost. For example, if a child feels they cannot carry out mathematical work their motivation and confidence could be limited, equally if a child is reaching their targets, there can be pressure to continuously meet these or higher, and if fails occur this could also impact their confidence levels and sense of self-worth. Both ways display that maths can be seen to be something which is too hard to do or something which is required to be passed. (Fleming, 2018)
For pupils in secondary schools, Maths is a subject which is ‘required’ for employment and university so pupils may only focus on passing this subject because it is seen as a necessity. Therefore, pressure on pupils will increase and their opinions of the subject can be more negative because it is the subject itself which is causing the stress and discomfort that pupils may feel. Teachers will also feel the pressure to ensure that their pupils are prepared for their exams; ultimately the excitement of maths has faded due to this overwhelming amount of pressure to achieve a grade C or above.
Therefore, there needs to be more of a focus on removing the negative stimulus around maths and instead promote a positive attitude towards the subject at an early age. By doing this, at an early age, it can give more opportunities for teachers to be creative and portray to children that mathematics is much more than numbers and is a subject which should be enjoyed. Enjoying maths will help with understanding and therefore help individuals gain more awareness of how it is used in everyday life.
Schools must ensure they are hiring teachers who enjoy and are passionate about maths. Within a classroom the teacher should be a role model and lead their class with enthusiasm and motivation by utilising a consistent positive approach towards maths which focuses on stimulating self-worth and confidence around the subject. Therefore, teachers should ensure they lead by example and influence pupils not to view maths as something procedural but something which provides enjoyment. For example, teachers could make maths more creative by using songs or rhymes as this can make “it easy for children to develop mathematically”. (Pound, 2008, p.7) By using music at an infant age it can also help children to remember information. (Pound and Harrison, 2003) Thus by inserting rhymes and songs in early childhood, it is more likely for children to remember what they have been taught because it was easier and more enjoyable to learn. Equally, if children are gaining a proper understanding of each topic in maths, they will be capable of effectively moving on to another topic and continue to build upon their previous knowledge. (Fleming, 2018)
To remove this negative stimulus and promote enjoyment there should be more active involvement of parents as this has a huge effect on their children’s learning and development. Research has “highlighted over two decades the importance of parents’ interest and involvement in their child’s mathematical thinking and understanding”. (Pound, 2008, p.9) This research portrays that making maths easier and more enjoyable “relies heavily on getting parents involved and making maths more relevant to children’s everyday lives”. (Pound, 2008, p.9) If parents are able to influence enjoyable maths upon their children at a young age, for example through providing “educational toys and activities which promote their maths skills” (ETL Learning, undated) children may instead internalise the feeling that maths is enjoyable rather than an impossible and difficult subject.
Overall, it is important that a positive approach to mathematics is applied and influenced to children by their teachers, parents and the whole school community as “if we are to support children in becoming autonomous learners and responsible citizens then it is the role of educators to ensure that children feel as comfortable with numbers as they do with words”. (Pound, 2008, p.5) Thus, if negative opinions of mathematics decreased and there were more supportive, creative and less pressuring teachers promoting positivity, children may feel more comfortable in a mathematic learning environment and perform to the best of their ability whilst enjoying what they are doing.
ETL Learning (undated). The Importance of Teaching Math in the Early Years – ETL Learning. [online] Available at: https://www.etllearning.com/resources/the-importance-of-teaching-math-in-the-early-years/ [Accessed 1 Oct. 2018].
Fleming, G. (2018). Why Math Is So Hard. [online] ThoughtCo. Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/why-math-seems-more-difficult-for-some-students-1857216 [Accessed 1 Oct. 2018].
Pound, L. (2008). Thinking and learning about mathematics in the early years. London: Routledge.
Pound, L. and Harrison, C. (2003) Supporting Musical Development in the Early Years. Buckingham: Open University Press Cited in Pound, L. (2008). Thinking and learning about mathematics in the early years. London: Routledge.