Maths. It’s often the dreaded word that every student hates to hear. Many children , young people and even adults not only ‘hate’ the term and concept of maths but also suffer from maths anxiety. A study carried out in Scotland found that as many as 50% of young learners worry maths will be difficult; this statistic highlights the clear fear many people have of maths but also the strong and prevalent stereotype in our society of maths being ‘difficult’.
Personally for me, maths has never been a huge area of continuous discomfort. Whilst I only have memories of endless SHM textbook work and worksheets in primary school, I feel I will always remember my high school maths teachers well. The stereotype of maths being ‘hard’ within my school was extremely evident however, perhaps because of this, many teachers within the department were some of the most inspiring. Possibly the greatest example of their dedication to their subject and students was their after-school study classes. Unlike other departments, every single night of the week (months prior to exams and prelims) the entire corridor was filled with teachers helping their students-often until around 6/7pm. My peers and I would often be welcomed into small, intimate teaching groups by teachers who had never officially taught me before, with all questions and queries welcome at any time of the day. All teachers were warm and welcoming and often offered me so much advice and support beyond the subject. Looking back now, I wonder if this was a way to relax pupil’s maths anxiety and change the subject’s common perceptions and stereotypes . If so, it definitely worked for me!
As a primary teacher, I hope to have this same affect on children when dealing with maths and numeracy and there are many ways in which I would attempt to do this. Showing interest and passion in the subject is incredibly vital when teaching, in attempt to reduce any pupil’s common stereotypes and apprehension. Making links between mathematics and other areas of the curriculum is also essential as well as building upon so many transferable skills such as risk taking, creativity, problem solving and team working. Highlighting areas of relevancy within mathematics can mean children maintain interest and engagement and understand the importance of being numerically literate. Going back to my own experience, I personally believe that the power of nurturing children in maths lessons is so powerful. By focusing on reducing anxiety and fear regarding maths throughout positive relationships and environments, children can begin to develop healthy associations and memories of maths, leading them to engage and investigate more within the subject; classroom and beyond.