Maths Anxiety a real concern, suggests Cambridge University study

Maths Anxiety a real concern, suggests Cambridge University study

A University of Cambridge study has suggested that children are experiencing “maths anxiety” – a variety of emotions from rage to despair with some reduced to tears and others struggling to breathe.

The study, which looks at 1,700 UK pupils aged from eight to 13, says parental pressure and confusing teaching methods can contribute to the development of maths anxiety in a child, which can lead to poor performance.

Students in the UK highlighted a general feeling that maths was more difficult than other subjects and that often contributed to their worries, leading to a lack of confidence.

Other common triggers for anxiety included poor marks, teasing by classmates and pressure from tests.

Dr Denes Szucs of the Centre for Neuroscience in Education at Cambridge University, co-author of the study, said: “Our findings should be of real concern for educators. We should be tackling the problem of maths anxiety now to enable these young people to stop feeling anxious about learning mathematics and give them the opportunity to flourish.

“If we can improve a student’s experience within their maths lessons, we can help lessen their maths anxiety, and in turn this may increase their overall maths performance.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The biggest problem facing schools in the teaching of maths is the severe shortage of specialist teachers in this subject. This means classes often have to be taught by non-specialists and supply staff.

“These staff often do a good job in difficult circumstances, but it is no substitute for the subject knowledge and continuity provided by subject specialists.”

The report was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, with additional support from the James S McDonnell Foundation.

Read more