5 Top tips to tackle maths anxiety in the classroom
Maths anxiety affects adults and children across the UK. It can be particularly problematic in primary learning where attitudes to maths are just being formed. Recent research has found that ten percent of children suffer from “overwhelming negative emotions” towards maths which impacts their confidence in class and at home.
Oxford University Press is committed to finding ways to make everyone feel more positive about numbers, reducing maths anxiety and encouraging confidence and success. In order to stimulate thinking around how this can be done, they recently hosted a series of Positive about Numbers hackathons across the country. (For those of you who don’t know what these are, I looked it up: Hackathons are informal events held for specialists in a sector or issue to get together with the aim of coming up with creative solutions to a specific problem through collaborative workshopping’)These hackathons saw primary teachers come together at our Numicon and Inspire Maths Advocate Schools to discuss how they’re challenging maths anxiety in their own classrooms and share tips for how other teachers can too. Among the suggestions were:
- Encourage collaboration– not all members of the teaching staff are full of confidence when it comes to maths. Try pairing teachers and TAs who are less confident in maths with a mentor who is more confident, so they can share tips, advice and resources.
- Use maths storybooks – this can consolidate the use of maths vocabulary, explanation and understanding. It will also bring a fresh angle to your maths lessons
- Place emphasis on the process, not the answer – celebrate the process of problem-solving and talk openly about the anxiety felt whilst getting to the answer to understand what the cause of the anxiety is.
- Be a good role model by not being afraid to make mistakes – demonstrating a positive mindset in making mistakes shows that we can take the opportunity to learn from where we have gone wrong and change this in future.
- Ensure that the school’s vision for maths is shared with parents and carers – this can encourage a positive attitude at home. If you have previously struggled to arrange meetings like this with parents and carers, try making it part of an event they are already attending, like sports day.
Everyone involved in education has a role to play in tackling maths anxiety, starting with what happens in the classroom. Making some of these changes towards encouraging greater positivity around numbers is the first step towards a more confident classroom.
You can find more helpful tips and advice from the Positive About Numbers hackathons in our free toolkit with easy-to-use learning resources for the classroom and home. We have also put together a thorough guide with all the information you need to run a workshop on tackling maths anxiety in your school. This could be a great way to identify and trouble-shoot issues more specific to the children you’re working with.
Top tips to tackle maths anxiety in the classroom
Jill Cornish, Editorial Director, Primary Maths, Oxford University Press