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Scared of maths, especially GCSE? What makes you so scared of it and why?

(21 Posts)
adil22 Fri 27-Nov-15 17:47:15

I am really curious to find out why people (students and parents) are so scared of maths, especially GCSE maths.

For example, many parents would try to get outside help for their children to get better at maths, instead of just helping/teaching themselves.

My question is

As a parent

1) What do you think is the main reason of why you are scared of maths? (please be as specific as possible)

2) What have you done (or doing) to overcome that fear?

3) How do you know if you have passed on that fear to your children or not?

As a student

1) What is the main reason for your fear? (Please be as specific as possible. Could it be the pressure of it all, not living up to expectations, too complicated/boring/irrelevant)

2) What are your personal views of maths as a subject and the way maths is taught.

My personal view is that anyone can learn maths and get better at it. After speaking to many tutors and students, maths always seems a tricky topic. I just want to know from you what your views are.

TeenAndTween Fri 27-Nov-15 18:08:19

Do you have a particular reason for asking? e.g. Are you a tutor?

I'm not at all scared of maths, I have a maths degree. smile
My eldest has just done GCSE maths.

My opinion is that often parents 'got lost' in their own school maths, often by being taught methods without understanding properly why they worked. So they have no firm foundations themselves. Then as they progressed they got more and more shaky. Also the higher stuff isn't used day to day, so they forget it.

I think number lines as now used in primary are fantastic for 'getting' what is going on, plus some of the 'expanded' methods.

I think it is important that people understand why something is, not just learn by rote. I used to explain stuff to my DD in different ways to her teacher. On many occasions she was able to go into class and explain to classmates something they didn't understand by the teacher's method. (ie method worked for 80% of class but the other 20% needed a different route).

I hate it when people tell kids that maths is hard, it really does pass the fear on.

I also hate the fact it seems to be socially acceptable to say you are poor at maths, in a way that is totally not acceptable to say you are poor at reading.

happygardening Fri 27-Nov-15 18:23:33

I'm going to watch the answers with interest DS1 is frightened of math, we have been told he doesn't have dyscalculia despite the fact that quantities mean absolutely nothing to him he cannot guestimate and numbers are just marks on a piece of paper.
His younger brother is truly exceptional at math (diagnosed as math genius on an ed psych report), he can just do math right up to A level, no explanation needed in fact can't understand why an explanation is necessary, my mental math is exceedingly good,, I am particularly good at guestimate/quantities etc, and my DH is particular good at allegebra and geometry he uses it for his job so he doesn't live with people who are "frightened" of numbers.
He's now left school but over the years I have spent thousands on math tutors God alone knows if it made any difference (he got his GCSE), from an early age we've counted stairs sweets raisins, sliced up cakes into fractions add and substracted smarties, I've sung tables with him and he even did daily quick mental math test every day, I've bribed shout and pleaded nothing has made any difference, he cannot look at 10 Cola bottles on the table and guestimate how many are they if I said 200 he'd accept that, he doesn't understand why if you add 3 raisons to 5 you get 8. In the end the last tutor took the view that it doesn't actually matter why 7x8 is 56 just accept it is. His IQ has just been formerly tested and found to be excess of 140 so he's not daft by any stretch of the imagination he just doesn't get math.
If someone can come up with solution I'd be delighted to see it.

borntobequiet Fri 27-Nov-15 18:29:03

happygardening your son absolutely does sound dyscalculic. His last tutor took the only possible approach - good for them.

PurpleThermalsNowItsWinter Fri 27-Nov-15 18:52:02

My own primary teachers never made much effort to teach maths.
My first maths lesson when I got to secondary was mental maths test. I hadn't even been taught my times tables, I was still working out the first question when the new teacher was barking the fifth. We were only allowed to write the answers down. Nothing else. I realised early on how behind I was. I'm 37 and passed gcse maths last year, going back to college to resit. I'm making an effort with the DC to get maths into them early.

happygardening Fri 27-Nov-15 19:43:49

borntobequiet I couldn't agree more and everything I've read about screams he's got dyscalculia but at 9 and now 18 two qualified ed psychs tested him for dyscalculia and said he's not got it confused.
The really weird thing is that on very rare occasions he apparently not only seems to demonstrate a moment of brilliance but like his brother shows an understanding of some part of math he's never even been taught.

borntobequiet Fri 27-Nov-15 20:12:33

I have little faith in ed psychs' understanding of or ability to diagnose dyscalculia. The thing about Maths is that many concepts - such as in shape and space - can be grasped independently of their numerical underpinnings - getting the big picture, if you like. Unfortunately without a sense of number, understanding goes no further. Perhaps your son gets glimpses of the philosophy behind Maths from time to time, hence his unexpected insights.

borntobequiet Fri 27-Nov-15 20:13:07

OP, sorry for the digression.

adil22 Fri 27-Nov-15 23:39:52

TeenAndTween yeah I do tutoring and this question always gets me wondering. I think you're right about the shaky foundations getting shakier as age increases, understanding over rote learning.

Yeah I don't get why people say maths is hard and the whole socially acceptable to be poor at it. I'm guessing it could be the culture we have or the way its taught or maybe the system behind it.

happygardening thanks for opening up to us. Whether your son has dyscalculia or not, seeing that he has done his gcse it might be interesting to ask him about his views on maths now. For some people who had bad experiences with maths, it may completely put them off to come back and try again. Im just wondering if maybe your son has overcome those fears you mentioned or whether or not he still has them.

PurpleThermalsNowItsWinter I hear you on what you are saying, bad teaching/experiences can leave a bitter taste for the subject. I'm interested to find out how you did gcse this time round, did you get a better teacher/tutor etc. What made that change for you to be able to get the gcse?

What kind of steps are you taking with your DC?

borntobequiet don't worry about the digression, its fascinating to read.

Can anyone let me know what the code terms mean - DC, DD, DS1, OP (I'm new on here)

LooseAtTheSeams Sat 28-Nov-15 07:56:52

just from personal experience, I found the problem when I was young was that people who were good at maths and could do it didn't understand how someone else couldn't do it. This was compounded by people teaching maths who weren't maths specialists so it was all about learning one method and moving on. The problems start when you don't understand something and it turns out to be vital for understanding something else. Panic sets in because if you don't know what you don't know it is hard to even ask a question. In the past, people would be made to feel stupid for getting the wrong answer and just switch off the subject altogether. I don't imagine this happens now, but I think we don't spend enough time on maths in school - practice makes perfect! What helped me was needing maths for work and then being able to explain it to other people.

PurpleThermalsNowItsWinter Sat 28-Nov-15 08:17:41

Adill - it was determination on my part (I know I need maths to go into teaching which is what I wanted to do originally.) I have all the other qualifications needed. So I just gave it another try. I started out with the WEA on a free functional maths course through the children's centre after having had dc2 (now closed). Passed that and moved to the local college. I had a wonderful tutor who hadn't passed maths until her forties and was now doing her masters in maths as well as teaching. She understood that lost feeling, was open and approachable, down to earth and just never ever gave us that 'look' when one of her students said we didn't get it. Her biggest regret was only having nine months to teach us the curriculum which meant there wasn't always time for the 'why,what,who decided' questions to be answered.
There's still things I don't get but I have a pass now. If I do go into teaching I would like to think it would allow me to be more empathic to students who struggle.
With my DC (reception and yr2) I'm just reinforcing what they are learning. Counting, addition, subtraction with felt tips or toys for the reception DC and number bonds, multiplication, addition, subtraction and division for yr2 DC. He's a star wars fan and I found a Star Wars maths workbook for year 2 pupils so we are working through that together. Just a couple of pages once or twice a week. I'm not fanatical about it, they read, play, do extracurricular activities and watch tv too.

citykat Sat 28-Nov-15 14:28:14

Struggled with long division in year 4, told I was struggling and have applied that label to myself ever since. Feeling much more confident now having been through rote times tables learning, arrays, number lines, number bonds, chunking with 2 children, starting the learning g again with third child Y 1 now. Never ever let on that I am not sure about what they are doing. Love 'Maths for mums and dads' by rob east away when I get stuck.

insan1tyscartching Sat 28-Nov-15 14:53:26

Dd 12 is scared of Maths even though she is very able and was predicted A* at GCSE level. It's not passed on from me or her siblings who were all equally able at Maths and were unafraid and went on to do Maths and Further Maths at A level.
Dd is an anxious child anyway and I think the loud, confident boys in top maths group don't help even if they aren't any more able than dd mathematically they exude confidence that dd just doesn't have.
My son has tutored his work colleague's sons and daughter's for GCSE each year and for each one he has said that it has been that they haven't been strong on the basics such as times tables, fractions, areas and perimeters which has impeded their ability to get a good grasp of GCSE level questions and of course being slow on the basics eats into the time they have to answer questions in exams.

TheNumberfaker Sat 28-Nov-15 15:15:47

Definitely don't spend enough time on Maths in school.
Think how much time is spent on phonics so children can read properly . Compare that to the time spent on maths basics...

noblegiraffe Sat 28-Nov-15 19:28:32

Kids are afraid of maths because it is so easy to experience failure in maths, and kids aren't used to failing.

In English teachers are told to 'only correct the worst spellings' or mark for content and ignore grammatical errors. My DS is in Y2 and any writing he does is praised for content even if his writing/spelling is wrong.

It's hard to praise a page full of incorrect sums. It's just a load of crosses.

spaceyboo Sat 28-Nov-15 19:32:52

I used to hate maths because that was the only subject my dad could me with, and he'd yell if I got anything wrong or if he didn't understand the method. I used to get panic attacks from age 6-16 just thinking about algebra!

IrisVillarca Sat 28-Nov-15 19:37:01

1) Crap teaching at secondary. Single top stream for all subjects, failure met with exasperation as to why I didn't 'get' it.
2) took GCSE Maths later in life, when future course/job etc didn't depend on it and with no judgemental attitudes or implication I just wasn't trying hard enough.
3) no impact at all. DC identified as AGT for Maths, finds it easy peasy. I never gave the impression Maths was difficult or unobtainable, or did the faux 'oh Lordy, I am sooooo rubbish at it!'.

ClareDeLune Sat 28-Nov-15 19:37:39

I thought I struggled with maths all my life, got an F at gcse in 1991, despite being reasonably bright. My maths teacher was scary and I was afraid to ask her for help in the midst of really bright children.

I was determined not to pass that to my children and always tried to give the impression maths was easy, their teachers were always fantastic too. My older children both took maths gcse early and got As so they clearly don't feel the fear! No3 should do well too.

I decided on my 40th birthday that I needed a maths gcse. I enrolled, studied by myself for 6 weeks and got a B grade! smile

yomellamoHelly Sat 28-Nov-15 19:38:47

I think it's because it's the limit of what I know and I only got a B many years ago so ds and I are equally confused at times / he'll be correcting me at times.

PlaysWellWithOthers Sat 28-Nov-15 19:41:13

I have been tested for dyscalculia, as there is a good chance I have it.

I was always told at school that I was useless at mathematics and was put in the bottom set. The bottom set teacher simply couldn't be bothered to teach it in a way that engaged any of us. I scraped a pass at o level.

I'm now redoing maths GCSE. I have a teacher who is obviously passionate about the subject, knows her stuff and is encouraging and kind about mistakes. I am predicted an A*.

Apparently I'm not stupid at maths after all.

adil22 Mon 30-Nov-15 16:47:46

Looseattheseams it seems many people have had a negative maths experience early on in their childhood which 'set' the tone for the rest of their schooling years. Teachers not being confident in the subject does not help anyone. My feeling is that some people are probably made to feel less than smart for getting questions wrong.

I think everyone might benefit from these interesting article -

PurpleThermalsNowItsWinter I'm so happy you were able to overcome your challenges in maths and pass. Congrats

If there is anything you are not sure about in maths, you can always ask me. The main point is to try and develop conceptual understanding, rather than just steps i.e. the why before the how.

I find that attitudes towards maths, as well as attitudes towards teaching/leaning maths plays a HUGE role in making a positive impact for people.

citycat Labels are powerful, for you it became a self fulfilling prophecy. Glad you were able to beat your label.

insan1tyscartching its fascinating how genders respond to maths. Yes the basics always come first, like I said above more important to know the why before the how.

noblegiraffe A very interesting point you have raised there. Maths in general is either right or wrong. Maybe to overcome this is to focus more on strategy used rather than final outcome. I think you may find the article (fluency without fear) above interesting.

TheNumberfaker I think schools trying to spending more time in maths in an already time strapped environment would be very difficult. The key maybe to spend the time spent on maths more efficiently and of course include maths in daily conversation.

ClareDeLune, spacyboo and IrisVillarca Notice how others influence on you has negatively impacted your experience of the subject.

For you spacyboo, I guess your parents just want you to do well but they just did not have the best approach.

IrisVillarca external factors lead you to change your own internal factors, meaning poor teaching lead to a downward spiral of you not 'getting it'. Interesting question for you, what would 'good' teaching be like?

ClareDeLune wow could not be happier for you, great job getting a B. :D

PlaysWellWithOthers No one is stupid at anything, you are now better than before. That is how I like to frame it. Same question for you, what would 'good' teaching be like?

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