The Truth Behind Maths Anxiety

‘I can’t do it’

For many children just the mention of maths fills them with dread, anger and even fear! Why does this happen? What does this mean for our children?

A 2019 Cambridge study stated that 1 in 10 children have Maths Anxiety, that is at least 3 children in the average sized classroom in the UK!

The brain works in mysterious ways and Maths Anxiety has a similar brain reaction to phobias or even pain. This causes the working memory of the child to overload with the worry, making the maths even harder for them to calculate.

Photo by David Cassolato on

Photo by David Garrison on

Children often think that being good at maths means being fast, meaning they sacrifice their accuracy for speed. This mixed with the overloaded brain means their results are not as good as they would hope.

So the cause? This is often negative experiences with maths. It could be getting a question wrong in class, either after raising a hand or writing on the board. It could be that maths was used to reprimand negative behaviour. It could even be related to a school streaming for maths and a child feeling they are not good enough.

More often than not the cause of maths anxiety is a child’s belief that to be good at maths you must be fast. The fact they are even having that thought causes the brain to work 3 times slower!

There are several strategies we can use to help our children and I use them in my tutoring all the time. They range from; controlled breathing, turning the worry around, warming up, identifying how your child is feeling and discovering the cause of the pressure they feel. We have a free, handy guide to reducing Maths Anxiety available, with 5 of these anxiety reducing techniques inside.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: