understanding mathematics anxiety

While mathematics is often considered a hard subject, not all difficulties with the subject result from cognitive difficulties. Many children and adults experience feelings of anxiety, apprehension, tension or discomfort when confronted by a maths problem.

Maths anxiety has many different manifestations, including emotional - for example, feelings of apprehension, dislike, tension, worry, frustration or fear, physical - for example, butterflies, racing heart, struggling to catch your breath or behavioural - for example misbehaving in class, avoiding maths assignments, not studying maths beyond the minimum expected level (Hembree, 1990).


Transfer from primary to secondary school seemed to have been a source of anxiety for many students and it appears they had not totally recovered from that transition point. ….Another major source of maths anxiety seemed to be the approach of particular maths teachers, with poor interpersonal skills and a lack of ability to explain things being at the root of the anxiety.


Importantly, those affected by higher levels of maths anxiety may develop other negative attitudes towards mathematics, avoid or drop out of voluntary maths classes, or avoid careers which require quantitative skills (Hembree, 1990). Since quantitative skills apply to such a broad range of careers, this may impose a severe limit on the life choices of somebody with high maths anxiety.

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All information taken from: 

Understanding Mathematics Anxiety - Investigating the experiences of UK primary and secondary school students. 

Centre For Neuroscience In Education, University of Cambridge 

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