Maths Anxiety

“It’s like someone is speaking to you in a foreign language”

Most children and adults who have a Specific Learning Difficulty in Maths will also be experiencing Maths Anxiety, however for some people Maths Anxiety occurs in isolation. It is sometimes referred to as Pseudo Dyscalculia because its effects the learner in such a way that they appear to have Dyscalculia. In these cases however, if confidence in Maths can be rebuilt then the effects begin to dissipate, and the learner can make rapid progress.

When a student is experiencing Maths Anxiety the most common method of coping with it is avoidance or withdrawal. Often this is done by mentally shutting down in Maths lessons rather than by physically doing anything. A student explained to me that, “It’s like someone is speaking to you in a foreign language – you can hear them but the words they are saying make no sense – it’s just like white noise”

Students under ten years old will usually attribute the fact that they cannot do Maths to the subject being hard. However, as they get older they start to attribute the failure to themselves, “I can’t do Maths” making the anxiety more pervasive and much more difficult to overcome. Whatever their age the key to overcoming anxiety is to change their fixed (negative) mindset with a growth mindset that allows them to believe that they can learn.

Another factor that makes Maths Anxiety particularly pernicious is the widespread belief that in Maths mistakes are bad and to be avoided at all cost. Students need to be shown and believe that mistakes are good because they give our brain the opportunity to grow.

For the student with Maths Anxiety, sensitive, kind and patient teaching is required to build their confidence and belief in their ability to learn Maths, as well as the Maths knowledge itself.