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Why is maths so difficult? Anxiety, self-esteem and 'stuck' thinking. Jane Warren Dyslexia Tutor Assessor Learning Differences Centre University of Southampton.

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Presentation on theme: "Why is maths so difficult? Anxiety, self-esteem and 'stuck' thinking. Jane Warren Dyslexia Tutor Assessor Learning Differences Centre University of Southampton."— Presentation transcript:

1 Why is maths so difficult? Anxiety, self-esteem and 'stuck' thinking. Jane Warren Dyslexia Tutor Assessor Learning Differences Centre University of Southampton LDC

2 A few statistics 93% 12.6% 10% 22% 8% 60% People in the US unable to do algebra UK 2004 GCSE cohort who took maths Proportion who gained below grade E US citizens who cannot do arithmetic Girls in the US who do higher maths Dyslexic people who also have difficulty with maths

3 Self-esteem or maths-esteem? Maths is difficult for me What shall I do? 1. Work really hard and learn the rules 2. Decide I’m really dumb 3. Decide maths is really dumb

4 What is maths anxiety? How would you react if asked: What is 7 x 8? How much would something cost if the original price of £120 was discounted by 15%? Solve 3x + 2 = 5x - 5 ¾ ÷ ½ Is the answer 1? Read this passage aloud to the group

5 Modes of thinking Toolbox mode Abstract mode Intuitive mode With thanks to Jan Robertson of De Montfort University, Leicester

6 Getting stuck Stuck in the toolbox: “Maths is a set of rules and procedures.” How maths is often taught and perceived at school Stuck in intuitive mode: “I can give you a ballpark figure.” A common reaction in people not in education Stuck in abstract mode: “Algebra is easy; numbers get in the way.” Surprisingly common in the dyslexic population

7 Building maths success Successful mathematics learners… …have confidence to ‘have a go’ and learn from errors …use the ‘language’ of maths …have sound conceptual grasp and pattern recognition …can remember and use facts and formulae

8 A way forward? Start from wherever the learner is Build motivation Emphasise process not product Make time and space available Talk through anxieties in order to build self-esteem Spend time on the language of maths

9 References Benson, I. (2007) ‘Ditching Piaget’ in Prospect, 130, pp Chinn, S. and Ashcroft, J. (1998) Mathematics for dyslexics: a teaching handbook, (2nd. ed.) London, Whurr Cockroft, W. (1982) Mathematics Counts, London, HMSO Cohn, R. (1971) ‘Arithmetic and learning disabilities’ in Myklebust, M.(Ed.) Progress In learning disabilities,11, New York: Grunt & Stratton Robertson, J. (2005) ‘Does Dyscalculia affect the Learning of Mathematical Concepts? (The‘ Twoness’ of Two)’ in Brain-HE Conference Proceedings Robertson, J. and Wright, F. (2005) ‘Learning support for students with mathematical difficulties’ in in Brain-HE Conference Proceedings Snyder, T., Hoffman, C., Geddes, C. (1997) Digest of Education Statistics 1997, NCES U.S. Department of Education Tobias, S. (1993) Overcoming Math Anxiety, New York, Norton Trivett, J. (1959) ‘The coloured sticks’ in New Scientist, 5, 12, pp


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