Many teachers are scared of Maths

One of the things I learnt throughout my time as a Numeracy leader is that many teachers are very anxious about teaching Maths. This observation is reinforced every year as I work with a new batch of pre-service teachers at uni. Many of these pre-service teachers freely admit that nothing scares them more than teaching maths.

This fear is something I work hard to overcome because I want them to be confident, knowledgeable passionate Numeracy teachers.

 Research shows that around 20% of the adult population have “maths anxiety”…whilst I don’t have the figures on Primary School teachers specifically, I would contend that this figure is probably even higher in this group.

Many teachers will do anything to avoid teaching maths. I think there are several reasons this is the case;

  1. They may have had a really bad experience learning maths at school
  2. They may not be confident in their own maths abilities (related to #1)
  3. They may be worried about doing the “wrong thing” with their students. (related to #1 and #2)

Truth is… I consider ita really important part of our job as Numeracy Leaders to help these teachers.

They can be the most difficult to work with, because often they are pretending that everything is under control when in fact they are too embarrassed to admit they are not coping at all.Often they will not ask for help and behind the doors in their classroom they will revert to the teaching the way they feel comfortable… often this is how they were taught themselves, (which as discussed above was far from ideal.

SO as Numeracy Leaders what can we do…

Here are a few ideas:

Step 1: Build a trusting, working relationship with teachers you identify as not being confident with their maths teaching.  They must feel comfortable enough to ask for support . Never laugh, judge, ridicule or share publicly (without their permission) that they are struggling with maths…these teachers must trust you implicitly!

Step 2: Support them… give them ideas (but don’t overwhelm them), model lessons for them, if they have reached out for help…really go that extra mile to ensure they experience success. When they experience success they will gain confidence.

Step 3: Never make them feel silly. Personally help them, don’t make a big deal out of the help you are providing. Most people don’t like being the “only person needing help”…or knowing they are in the “turtle group”.

Step 4: Small steps… don’t expect them to be running ‘Number Talks’ and ‘3 act Tasks’ in their lessons straight away... be happy if they take on one change! Make it easy for them to change…

And remember, even if you just help one teacher, that is a big win- think of the number of students that will be influenced in the future

I still recall the day a nervous Numeracy teacher ran in to me in the staff room and shared with a huge smile “Ange I have just taught the my best maths lesson ever…”

That is those moments that make our job worthwhile!


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