- Is maths anxiety a thing?
- What are the symptoms of Maths anxiety?
- Why does Maths give me anxiety?
- How to deal with Maths anxiety?
It may have been some time since you were sat in a classroom, but if you cast your mind back no doubt you can remember your feelings towards maths at school. Most students seem to have either really enjoyed maths or really struggled with it.
In a 2019 sample of 1,700 UK schoolchildren, there was an overall feeling that maths was more difficult than other subjects. School children today suffering from maths anxiety are definitely not alone.
However, you might be surprised to know that maths anxiety is not just a problem for those with low maths ability, but also with high maths achievers!
“…Because these children perform well at tests, their maths anxiety is at high risk of going unnoticed by their teachers and parents, who may only look at performance but not at emotional factors,” says Dr Amy Devine.
Parents also need to be aware that their own feelings about maths could influence their child's maths anxiety.
Is maths anxiety a thing?
Maths anxiety is defined as a negative emotional reaction to mathematics, which can manifest itself in many different ways. Maths is widely considered a hard subject but the UK is facing a maths crisis and maths anxiety can interfere with a person’s ability to perform in the subject.
Maths anxiety is especially critical for students as maths is a compulsory subject in the UK until the end of GCSEs. There are many maths exams ahead of students that they are expected to do their best in.
Maths anxiety is a barrier that can extend into our ability to solve mathematical problems even in ordinary life, so it’s important to identify those suffering to help overcome their anxiety.
What are the symptoms of maths anxiety?
- Behavioural – Not doing maths homework to avoid negative feelings, only doing the bare minimum in maths lessons.
- Mental – Dreading maths lessons, significantly higher levels of tension prior to and during maths lessons and tests.
- Physical – Misbehaving in class, butterflies or a racing heart during maths lessons.
This list is not exhaustive and your child could have any combination of the above or suffer from symptoms outside of this.
Why does Maths give me anxiety?
There are a few reasons why maths might give your child anxiety, some of which you might be able to relate to from when you were at school:
- Being humiliated in the past at school for getting the maths answer wrong, and this experience shaping your child’s perception of maths.
- Being pressured to give the correct answer to a maths question quickly can stifle a student’s ability to answer- especially in front of the whole class!
- Sitting a maths exam where producing accurate answers under timed conditions led to a low score.
Maths anxiety does not discriminate, it can affect any age, gender or background. A poll conducted by the Maths Anxiety Trust in 2018 found that 23% of parents of children aged 5-15 report that their eldest child often feels anxious when attempting to solve a maths problem. Moreover, UK students in 2021 were found to experience the most maths anxiety out of 20 participating countries.
A “high prevalence of maths anxiety in the UK” may be caused by a traditional but outdated approach to maths teaching. Hiring a GoStudent maths tutor could help your child to approach learning maths in a new way and relieve some of the anxiety.
Anxiety surrounding maths can lead to a phobia of maths in adulthood, which could be the total avoidance of any everyday situation where maths is involved.
Such a strong aversion to maths prevents adults from pursuing jobs and promotions that they could excel in. This psychological barrier to maths even has a knock-on effect on the UK economy.
How to deal with maths anxiety?
- Make maths fun and engaging as soon as possible in schools.
- Use personalised maths teaching activities that relate to real life, our GoStudent maths tutors understand the importance of this.
- Practice maths in a relaxed environment so that it does not feel like a test.
- Recognise that it’s important for people to study maths at their own pace. We can match your child with a GoStudent maths tutor who will work with your child on achievable goals to improve numeracy confidence.
Nobody is born with maths anxiety, so any negative thoughts and behaviour around maths can be unlearned with the right support. Your child's current state of mind around maths does not need to define their approach to maths into their teens and adulthood.