What a fear of maths does to children – new research

Maths anxiety is the feeling of tension and fear that many people experience when called on to work out a sum.

This article first appeared in the Conversation

For children, it can lead to behavioural problems in class, as well as physical symptoms such as butterflies in the stomach and a racing heart.

Students with high maths anxiety perform worse in standardised maths tests and school exams. Anxious thoughts interfere with recalling maths-related facts and procedures, and also with performing these procedures well. This is often described as the experience of having your mind go blank.

Our new research shows that maths anxiety does not only affect how children do in exams, it also affects their ability to learn new mathematical concepts and procedures in class.

Early beginnings

We introduced more than 200 six-year-old schoolchildren in the UK and Italy to mathematics that they had not covered in school before. This included additions with tens and using the lesser than and greater than signs.


For the full article, by Dr Kinga Morsanyi, of Loughborough’s Mathematics Education Centre, visit the Conversation.

Notes for editors

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