Today, Pearson, the world’s learning company, has released new guidance that shows that a whole-school and societal approach to tackling maths anxiety1 is needed to support the tens of thousands2 of children, young people and adults who suffer from it.
The free online Guide to Tackling Maths Anxiety reveals the scale of the issue and highlights practical recommendations for change both inside and outside the classroom. This includes ensuring maths anxiety is explored as part of initial and ongoing Teacher Training, providing free and widespread access to resilience-building tools for teachers and staff, and combating harmful stereotypes and teaching practices that can fuel anxiety and feeling ‘excluded’ from the subject.
The guidance draws on research and insights from leading experts across education, academia, business and the third sector who attended Pearson's 2019 Power of Maths roundtable to help address the issue. The roundtable forms part of the #PowerofMaths campaign, which works to ensure everyone can engage with mathematics and the power of what it can do in our lives.
Bobby Seagull, maths teacher, television personality and author, who chaired the Power of Maths roundtable, said: “I have witnessed how maths anxiety can negatively impact the competence and confidence of people in dealing with maths. This can sadly harm their ability to engage with maths for their rest of their lives. This guide gives an insight into some of the solutions and ideas that can be taken forward in schools and wider society to build a more confident and resilient nation when it comes to maths. Together, we must continue the conversation and fight for the wonder of maths.”
Recent research into maths anxiety reveals that one in 10 eight to 13-year-olds in Britain suffer from maths anxiety3 and one in four people would be deterred from applying for a job if it listed numbers and data as a requirement4, signalling significant implications for young people’s life chances and the economy.
Speaking about her experience of maths anxiety, 13-year-old Elsie from Southam, said: “I was bad at maths and I didn’t understand it, so I got frustrated and upset. I was put into a smaller group with other kids who struggled with maths and I also had one-to-one time with a specialist teacher. She told me that I wasn’t bad at maths and that I’m not stupid. I was given ways to stop feeling frustrated and she showed me fun activities involving maths. I still struggle with some areas of maths but I don’t give up.”
Sharon Hague, Senior Vice President for UK Schools at Pearson, said: “As a publisher and the UK’s largest awarding body, we are acutely aware of the importance of building a number-confident, resilient nation.
"The Power of Maths roundtable and Guide to Maths Anxiety were developed to promote active discussion about how to tackle this complex, far-reaching and pressing issue in partnership with leading organisations, academics and practitioners across sectors. From the way we present mathematicians in popular culture, to opening the doors to industry and inspiring a culture of continued learning and enthusiasm for STEM, there are both practical and aspirational steps that we can all take to ensure every learner, at whatever age, enjoys the life-changing power of maths.
“We are dedicated to continuing this conversation and invite everyone to join us to help build maths-confident communities, including educators, parents, carers, policymakers, businesses, charities and the media.”
1Maths anxiety can be described as “a feeling of tension and anxiety that interferes with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems in ordinary life and academic situations.” The Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale, Richardson F. C., Suinn R. M (1972)
2Research suggests that one in 10 eight to 13-year-olds suffer from maths anxiety in Britain (Understanding Mathematics Anxiety: Investigating the experiences of UK primary and secondary school students. Centre for Neuroscience in Education, University of Cambridge and Nuffield Foundation, March 2019), while one in five parents suffer from arithmophobia – a fear of numbers (The True Potential Centre for the Public Understanding of Finance, The Open University Business School (OUBS) (2018))
3Understanding Mathematics Anxiety, University of Cambridge and Nuffield Health (March 2019)
4Numerate nation? What the UK thinks about numbers, research by Ipsos Mori for National Numeracy (2019)