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Maths anxiety affects a third of young children

05 September 2019

Around one third of children aged four to six years old say they feel anxious about their maths ability says a study presented today to the joint conference of the BPS Cognitive and Developmental Psychology Sections.

Maths anxiety is a negative emotional reaction to a mathematical problem that can affect children and adults. It can lead to varying degrees of panic and helplessness and isn’t confined to academic situations.

In the study by Abertay University a total of 208 children from four primary schools undertook a series of numeracy tasks, including problem solving, and completed a questionnaire about maths anxiety.

Analysis showed that more than 30 per cent of the children said that they felt anxious and worried when undertaking maths tasks. This was not linked to their actual maths performance. 

Lead researcher and PhD student Dawn Short said:  

“Although maths anxiety at this early stage of formal learning didn’t relate to actual performance, it is concerning that one third of young children feel so worried.

Without action this fear will continue to affect them as they find themselves locked in a vicious circle of despair, suffering from anxiety that harms their maths performance, which in turn leads to increased anxiety.

With the UK slipping further down the international league tables for maths, science and reading, it’s really important that children are supported and given the confidence to achieve their potential.”

The Cognitive Psychology Section and Developmental Psychology Section joint conference takes place from 4 – 6 September in Stoke on Trent. 

Follow the conference on Twitter #cogdev2019 


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