Maths, Anxiety and Stress. They all come hand in hand – or at least for me anyway. The ridiculous thing is though, I got an A in maths and as I keep getting told “if you got an A in maths then you should be confident!” Well read it and weep guys, I get stressed about the thought of having to do maths in public just as much as the other person.
I liked maths in primary school, learnt my times tables and passed tests with an adequate score, i’m not pythagoras or anything. My problems with maths developed when I was in high school and because I did badly in 1 test got pushed down into the lower classes where the teenagers my age weren’t interested in maths and most of them couldn’t care less about their
education. The teacher I had though was really enthusiastic and gave me extra homework, seeing my potential. He was Irish and only in the high school for a year which was a sorry loss when he did leave because everyone got pretty good scores and missed him. I think the fact that I remember so many things about him as a person, the way he taught me and the enthusiasm he embedded in me about maths really stuck with me and made me think more about wanting to become a teacher – that kind of teacher. I don’t want the children in my future classes to feel badly about doing 1 test wrong and going down into lower groups. It destroyed my confidence at maths and it took me twice as long to get the A I would have been capable of getting a year earlier.
I had never heard of “maths anxiety” until I went to my first maths tutorial, came back from that and read up on it. When looking it up on the internet I found the BBC article published last year “Do you have maths anxiety?” I then turned to Haylock’s first chapter in “Mathematics Explained for Primary Teachers” where I read that actually this opinion about being scared of maths and finding maths difficult to teach is really common. I think it is up to teachers to destroy the myths and the anxiety surrounding maths because if we can’t children are leaving our classes innumerate, and I think anyone can agree that is unacceptable from teachers in this day and age.
Not only do teachers however have to be enthusiastic about maths, but they need to understand it too. Currently, I hold my hands up and say I need some kind of refresher course on basic maths, it has been two years since I learnt it in school and currently I couldn’t tell you my prime numbers from my prisms, I just can’t remember it. That A means nothing when you have a class in front of you which you have to teach maths and you have maths anxiety. So you have to bring maths to life in your own classroom, not only for the childrens sake, but your own too. If you don’t find maths fun the likelihood is the children won’t either. Now my Irish maths teachers’ favourite game to play with us was countdown. Its perfect for older children because even if they don’t like the maths they
love the theme tune (so do I though!) which makes it fun. Dominoes was a regular favourite in my nursery last year, whether it be numbers, spots or animals to match, it meant they were matching something which is maths. Clocks, the simple fact is, telling the time is maths. There’s numbers on the clock and without mathematical skills then there’s no way you can tell the time, so make sure your classroom has a clock in it. Counting rhymes or songs. From my experience the older children aren’t the only ones in school who love a good sing song and if you can’t find a decent song with numbers, find one they’ll enjoy and find the maths in it (my favourite was always the rattlin bog!)
These are all things I intend to do as a teacher. Enthusiasm is something I personally feel really strongly about as a student teacher. Reflecting on my own experiences with my teachers has shown me what kind of a teacher I want to become and made me start to think about the ways in which I will bring maths into my classrooms. If you have other maths ideas for the classroom please share them in the comments.