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Maths Anxiety – Matteo Scibberas

Maths anxiety seems to be a term which has gained more traction in recent years. The Nuffield Foundation and the University of Cambridge have done some great research here and their 2019 report is well worth a read. Maths anxiety generally describes any apprehension, discomfort or tension experienced when learning or performing maths. Although the effects of maths anxiety may present themselves as cognitive difficulties (e.g. issues with retention and working memory), it is primarily considered an emotional problem. What makes matters more complicated is that research indicates that maths anxiety and maths performance act upon one another bidirectionally; that is to say that maths anxiety reduces maths performance, yet at the same time poor performance increases maths anxiety.

Research has also shown that maths anxiety in teachers and parents can influence maths anxiety in children. As such, teacher educators have an important role to play in supporting trainee teachers to identify, address and overcome any anxieties that they may face about their own maths performance. Showing trainee teachers how they can improve their maths performance will support their understanding that abilities in maths are not fixed. This is the exact belief we want teachers to instil in children, so let’s make sure trainee teachers are given space to reflect on their own experiences of maths at school, while also learning why it’s so important to begin to foster their own love for the subject.

Matteo Scibberas – NASBTT’s Subject Specialist Associate Consultant for Primary Mathematics

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