This is the first post in the multi-part series on Mathematical anxiety, particularly in a primary/elementary school context.
Today, I want to talk about what Maths anxiety is, and what I have observed in my classroom.
Let’s agree what we mean by Maths anxiety first. It is defined as
“a feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear that interferes with math performance” (2002, p. 1)
As maths teachers, many of you might already be able to relate to this. In my classroom, I have observed a range of emotions, right from complete disengagement, to feeling embarrassed, to feel angry, or upset, when my children engage with maths. When I try to dig deeper into these emotions, it is their fear and apprehension that stands out.
How could you know if it is indeed anxiety that a child is going through? The best indicator that is available is avoidance. When a child is actively trying to distract himself/herself, or prefers to engage in other activities whenever presented with a maths problem, it must ring you an alarm bell.
Of course, Maths anxiety is not a discrete feeling associated with Maths as a whole; it is an emotion experienced in various degrees of strength, depending on the competency of the child and the complexity of the problem the child is presented with. The biggest risk though, is that avoidance may result in decreased competency, and thus leading to further more anxiety, affecting the child’s confidence in Maths altogether.
There are so many reasons why this situation could occur, which I am going to reserve for the next post, before moving on to some of the ways we can handle it. For now, I’m keen on hearing your thoughts on this:
Have you observed Maths anxiety in your classroom? How did you conclude that it was anxiety?
1. Ashcraft, M.H. (2002). Math anxiety: Personal, educational, and cognitive consequences.Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 181-185.