Maths Anxiety?

Do numbers make you nervous?
Multiplication fill you with dread?
Square roots send you screaming from the room?
This could be maths anxiety.
If you are looking for help to overcome it, you are in the right place.

Let go of your fears

Helen Taylor

What does maths anxiety look like?

Maths anxiety is simply a type of anxiety specifically related to maths, both in the classroom and in real life. It can range from mild tension through to an extreme fear, and can have a large negative impact on children’s and adults’ lives.

These are some of the ways that maths anxiety in the classroom can look.

monkey looking worried and anxious

Worry

"Ooh, I know how to do this, but you've put me on the spot."
"Nothing's happening in my brain. Where have the numbers gone?"
"I'm going to get it wrong, I know I am. Everyone will think I am stupid"

cat looking scared

Fear

"Please don't ask me. I don't want to be here."
"I feel funny in my tummy and my paws are all sweaty."
"Ask someone else, they might know the answer, I don't. I can't do maths. Oh please don't ask me!"

Monkey looking blank

Blank

“Yet more new stuff? I still don’t get what the X and Y are."
"Maths lessons make me feel so stupid and inferior."
"I try to follow it but nothing makes sense and there are so many rules to learn."
"I hate maths lessons.”

koala asleep

Give up

"What's the point?"
"Why do I have to sit in these stupid lessons when I can't do any of it?"
"I'll never pass my exams so why bother even trying?"
"I hate maths!"

No one was born hating maths!

Many people, across the whole age range, have a negative reaction to the word maths. It is common, and accepted, in the UK to state “I can’t do maths”, “I hate maths” or "I just don't have a maths brain".

No one was born hating maths, it is something that is learned.

Why not take a few moments to read about the life of an imaginary maths hating person, to discover how they learned to hate it?

The truth is that everyone can get better at maths, we can’t all be brilliant, and some of us will find certain aspects of maths harder than others, but with practice we can all improve. And therein lies one of the biggest problems behind maths anxiety. When we develop a belief that we are no good at maths we don’t bother to practice as much, because what is the point? So we don’t get any better, we fall behind, new topics seem harder because we don’t have the building blocks, and so we have proved to ourselves that we really are no good at maths. It can become a vicious downward spiral that can lead to a hatred of the whole subject.

And it is worse than this, because once we begin to become anxious about maths, we become less capable of doing it. Solving a maths question involves using our working memory, but when we are anxious and worried we can’t access that memory in the same way, and so it is even harder to tackle the question. It isn’t that we aren’t capable of doing the maths, but that our anxiety about it is preventing us from being successful.

Maths covers a huge range of topics, and we will find some easier than others. Some may love algebra, others geometry, or graphs. Kate could have an instinctive feel for 3 dimensional objects, rotating them with ease in her head, whereas Johnny finds this tricky but takes to algebra like a duck to water. However, if we learn that we are no good at maths, we may have already switched off and don’t give ourselves the chance to discover those topics that we may enjoy and even excel at.

Our education system, with its focus on passing exams, exacerbates the situation. And maths is a compulsory subject, so even if you hate it you have to suffer lessons several times a week. Imagine almost every school day sitting in a class where you feel totally unable to cope, scared that you’ll be asked a question, your self confidence being eroded by repeatedly feeling stupid and incapable. No matter how great you are at your other subjects, you still have to endure maths lessons, and it can affect how you feel about school and yourself in general.

Perhaps surprisingly, many high achievers in the subject also experience maths anxiety. It could be the constant testing, and comparison with their peers that leads to the first anxious feelings that they aren’t good enough. And as we have seen, that anxious feeling inhibits their ability to use their working memory to the full and they can’t do as well as they are able.

So what can be done about maths anxiety?

Chimpanzee looking stressed

"Help me!"

Blank

I can help you

Imagine if there were someone who could help with both the anxiety and the maths skills? To allow people to flourish and release their inner mathematician?

Wouldn’t that be brilliant?

As an experienced maths teacher and therapist I can do exactly that.

dog looking confused

"Really? You can help?"

I have taught maths in a school environment from year 7 through to further maths A-level, and now specialise in one-to-one tutoring.

I am an Ollie and His Super Powers Coach, which means I am trained to use a wonderfully simple model to teach children (and adults) to understand and control their emotions and fears. It is brilliant at helping people to let go of old, unhelpful beliefs and to build on their strengths to grow new empowering ones.

ollie and his superpowers

This, combined with over 11 years in practice as a cognitive hypnotherapist (which encompasses a huge range of techniques drawn from different therapies including NLP which you may have heard of), means that I am in the perfect position to help anyone overcome their maths anxiety.

See what a difference my help can make to ...

What should you do now?

A great first step is to get a copy of my free questionnaire.
This will give you more information, and help you to assess whether you or your child does indeed have some level of maths anxiety.

Let's suppose that you have determined that maths anxiety is indeed an issue.

Do you now want to find out more about how I could help you or your child?

The first step is to contact me by email or phone, and we can then arrange a time to chat about your needs.

I think it is vitally important that anyone I am to work with meets me (in person or online) and feels that they will get on with me, before we begin to tackle either the anxiety or the maths. Therefore, I will invite you to come for a short free visit, or to an online meeting, where we can get to know each other and decide on the best way forward.

I work in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and offer both face to face sessions, online sessions, and a mixture of both.

Get in touch now to make a start on banishing those maths gremlins!

Helen Taylor
Maths Anxiety Specialist

  • Based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

  • Prices starting at £40 per session for maths tuition

  • Flexible packages available

  • Enhanced DBS check

  • Tel: 07543 842884

  • email: helen@mathsanxiety.co.uk

To find out more about Ollie and His Super Powers coaching, and useful information and research about maths anxiety please browse the links provided.

I can help .... children

How old are you? 8, 11, 16?
It makes no difference, if maths makes you worried or scared then we can sort that out.
I will teach you a simple way to understand and undo the unhelpful beliefs you have about maths.
You will learn to control your feelings , and use strengths from other areas in your life to enable you to begin to succeed at maths.
Together we will build your confidence in your maths skills so that you can hold your head high in lessons.

After our sessions you can expect to .....

  • feel happier at school

  • feel more self-confident

  • improve your self-esteem

  • aim higher than you imagined was possible

  • see maths as an enjoyable challenge

  • know how to control your emotions in other situations

  • be able to bounce back from problems

  • keep calm and focussed during exams

I can help .... parents

Using the Ollie model I will teach your child a simple way to understand and undo the false unhelpful beliefs they have about maths.
I will teach them fun ways to control their emotions and feelings.
We will build confidence and expertise in their maths skills, so that they will be able to cope and flourish in the maths classroom.

Being able to directly address both anxiety and maths, means that I can be totally flexible with how I help each child. It might be easier to persuade your child that a bit of maths tuition could be helpful, and then as they build trust in me we can segue into dealing with the anxiety. Alternatively, we can tackle the anxiety head on, and then work on building up their maths skills and confidence.

The best time to tackle maths anxiety is as soon as it becomes apparent that your child no longer enjoys maths, and is starting to fear it or to question their ability. Perhaps this could be soon after they start school, when they move to secondary school, or even when they tackle A-level maths.

I am well aware that it is often not until GCSEs start to loom that the anxiety can really begin to have a very noticeable effect and be assured that it is not too late to sort it out then.

After our sessions you can expect your child to .....

  • feel happier at school

  • feel more self-confident

  • have improved self-esteem

  • see maths as an enjoyable challenge

  • know how to control their emotions in other situations

  • be able to bounce back from problems

  • keep calm and focussed during exams

The difference this will make to you is....

  • a happier child

  • a calmer household

  • knowing you have given your child lifelong skills for their emotional wellbeing

  • having someone your child has already worked with, should they need any emotional help in the future

And if you attend the therapy sessions with your child you will have ....

  • new ways for you to understand what is behind your child's behaviour

  • a framework to talk to your child about their emotions and behaviour

  • techniques for you to help your child emotionally

  • tools and understandings to apply in your own life

I can help .... adults

If a fear of numbers or maths has followed you from childhood, then be assured that it is not too late to become free from it.

I have a host of different ways to help you to let go of your anxiety, including the same techniques from the Ollie model that I would use with children. They work just as brilliantly on adults too.

After our sessions you can expect to .....

  • feel comfortable around numbers

  • have the belief that you can learn the maths skills that will help you to do what you want in life

  • feel empowered to tackle other beliefs that may be holding you back

  • be proud of yourself

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The life of an imaginary maths hater

As a toddler they learn to count their toys, to share sweets out fairly, to recognise triangles and squares, know if one amount is bigger than another, to put things in order, and they enjoy doing these things. At this point they enjoy maths and can do it.

At school they start doing things with written numbers, and bring home sheets of sums to do. They get lots of ticks, and are happy to do more sums.

At home they have always been told that they take after mum (or dad), in how they look or behave, how good they are singing, dancing, running and they start to create the belief that they take after that parent.

The sums get harder, and they notice they are a bit slower than others in their class and they don’t get as many ticks. They take their harder sheets of sums home, and the parent they ‘take after’ finds it hard to help them and reveals that they could never do maths, that they don't have a "maths brain". The child starts to create the belief that they are going to find maths hard and never be able to do it. They don’t do as many sums any more, and the crosses start to outnumber the ticks.

The maths at school continues to get harder. Our child no longer enjoys maths, and because they know that they aren’t going to be able to do it they don’t bother trying hard. They begin to get behind on the basics. They aren’t supported by their non-mathsy parent(s) to learn their times tables and number bonds, and they get slower and slower in class. They begin to hate being asked questions by the teacher as they often get them wrong in the time they are given to answer. They feel stupid.

At secondary school, a whole new range of more rigorous topics are introduced, and because our child doesn’t have the basics in place this is really tough going. They are put in the bottom set. They worry about being put on the spot and made to look silly. They begin to dread maths lessons. They certainly don’t want to practice their maths, and anyway they know they aren’t ever going to be able to do it because they take after their mum/dad. What’s the point? They keep getting told that maths is really important and they have to do well in their GCSEs, but the maths is getting harder and builds on understandings they have already missed. The pressure builds, and they become scared and frightened in maths class. They sit panicking that the teacher might ask them a question. They hate getting low marks, especially when they are good at English, History, Art and PE. They would love to give maths up, but it’s compulsory and they have to suffer lessons every day.

The pressure of exams builds; maths is soooo important; and they can’t do it. They are stressed, anxious, and begin to hate the sight of numbers and anything to do with maths. They leave school as true maths haters, and avoid anything in life where their lack of ability could be uncovered. They don’t want to feel stupid again. They turn down opportunities, panic when a friend asks them to work out how to share a lunch bill, turn to a calculator to work out 3 plus 8, make bad mortgage decisions, pay more than they need for their electricity, and still get a sick feeling in their stomach whenever any mentions maths lessons.

They have children, and tell them that they could never do maths ….