According to a recent report, ten per cent of children have suffered with "maths anxiety” - meaning they experience overwhelming negative emotions towards maths. Many also feel apprehensive about maths, and other feelings recorded in the study included tension and frustration. Some also experienced physical symptoms including a racing heart, butterflies and even shortness of breath.
Many people old and young feel that maths is more difficult than other subjects and this can mean that both adults and children lack confidence in maths and shy away from using it.
Many of us joke that our old maths teachers’ admonition that "you won’t have a calculator with you all the time when you grow up” is now redundant thanks to the advent of mobile phones. But this doesn’t mean that a basic understanding of the principles of maths is not a useful thing for all of us to have. Maths is something that comes up in all areas of life; in fact, this article lists seven jobs that require maths. As well as this, who wants to be pulling out their mobile to calculate a couple of simple items when shopping?
It is important to help children to face their fears where maths is concerned so that they have a wide range of options open to them as they grow up and go out into the world.
With that in mind, here are some ways to encourage a love of maths:
Make maths a part of every day; add up how much things will cost while shopping, or talk about how much things weigh. If I buy three of these, how much money will I need is a good place to start with this.
Show maths in the real world. Many children dislike maths because they see it as pointless; we all remembering complaining, But when will I ever need to know the area of a triangle in real life! This may be the case, but there are plenty of other ways that maths is relevant in everyday life. Organising and arranging furniture in a room involves calculating area.
Praise effort rather than ability. Rewarding effort helps children to deal with problems and use them as a learning experience; they become less fearful of failure and more resilient.
Highlight progress. Children can often feel that maths is so difficult they don’t stand a chance. It can be helpful to point out: This time last week you didn’t know where to begin with this, and now you’re doing so well with it.
Be patient and consistent. It is a slow process to learn anything, and the same is true for maths. Everyone gets stuck from time to time and it is important to be patient and consistent in our approach to children when learning.