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How to tell if your child is suffering from maths anxiety…and what to do about it!

Have you ever seen one of those maths problems that do the rounds on Facebook? Do they induce feelings of fear and helplessness in you? Do you ignore them because the idea of trying to solve them is just too overwhelming?

Well, the likelihood is that you suffer from Maths Anxiety, and the fact is that you are very far from being alone.

It is thought that a large proportion of the population suffers from maths anxiety. It has been defined by Tobias and Weissbrod (1980) as “the panic, helplessness, paralysis, and mental disorganisation that arises among some people when they are required to solve a mathematical problem”, and a study in 2004 showed that at least 85% of pupils in introductory maths lessons suffered from at least a mild form of maths anxiety.

So, how can we spot the symptoms of maths anxiety in our children?

The following is a non-comprehensive list of signs that your child may be suffering.

  • Feelings of helplessness and fear when presented with maths problems.

  • Feelings of nausea, heart racing, panic attacks, sweatiness, shakiness etc

  • Frustration when doing maths.

  • Not knowing where to start with a maths problem.

  • Shutting down when asked to tackle a maths question.

Looking at the list of symptoms above it is clear that a) lots of children are suffering from maths anxiety and b) it is seriously compromising their ability to make progress.

So, how do we combat this? It’s a question we’ve been thinking about quite a lot at My Primary Tutor Towers, as we have been developing our Emotions First programme which is built (in part) to combat problems just such as this.

We’re big fans of Leah Shaffer, who has written around the subject a great deal, and who has suggested the following methods of combating maths anxiety in children:

Cultivate a growth mindset.

This is something we’ve been talking about a great deal over the last few weeks, especially in our blog, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2021. Having a growth mindset helps because it helps children to develop resilience – the ability to deal with problems and to see them as learning experiences.

If children are feeling maths anxiety, start from a place where they feel comfortable and go from there.

Reminding them of all the things that they can do is a great way of building the confidence to help them attempt the things that they can’t do yet!

Let children choose their own favourite way of solving maths that they don’t feel comfortable with.

Rather than teaching them one method of subtraction, for example, let them choose the method that works for them and which they understand the best. Helping children to understand that maths can be approached in a number of ways and that all are equally valid will build their confidence to try new things.

If your child is suffering from Maths Anxiety and you feel that it is stopping them from progressing as much as they should, our flagship programme, Emotions First could be just the solution you need.

It is an eight-week, bespoke course that has, at its core, the belief that children need to be emotionally strong before they can achieve their best academically. It helps children to recognise, name and (where necessary) control their feelings, channelling them into productive learning opportunities. It promotes and teaches a growth mindset that will help your children to see that their failures, just as much as their successes are a part of the learning, and the most efficient way of making progress.

If you’d like to find out more, or book a spot, send us a message or reach out to Karen at

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