Memorable events

At our event in May which brought together practitioners to discuss and inform the project, we asked for memorable events related to mathematics anxiety and other emotional reactions to maths.

The first of these ‘stories’ is shown below, with more to come in the following weeks.



Positive experience

My eldest daughter was totally bored in maths lessons and never thought it was ‘for her’. However, like her younger sibling (who went on to get a 2-1 and Masters in maths and physics) she got a GCSE grade A (and told everyone they must have mixed her name up with someone else)… she went to Art College and did a History of Art degree, subsequently became an Art teacher and is now a senior teacher trying to help teachers ‘be more engaging and creative’… this includes maths teachers, so maybe the GCSE grade A is helpful… She expressed no anxiety, but a debilitating sense of detachment and boredom with subject.

Was my daughter’s experience at all positive? – yes, because she had (by age 30) sufficient capability to transfer her pedagogy from Art to other subjects including maths… so we should never give up even when student ‘opt out’ of the STEM “pipeline”.

Negative experience

My first research encounter with a Masters student who wanted to research MA. He was teaching FE students who were mainly adult returnees to education, having been complete failures of maths in school, but who wanted to ‘rehabilitate’ themselves and often become carers who would help their children have a more positive experience of maths than they did. One of his students’ stories involved an event where a teacher had inserted a piece of chalk into their ear and shouted the times tables in the other ear… I keep thinking about this abuse and the metaphors at work here. The cruelty and the implications of the teachers world view seem almost laughable. I wonder what it says about cultural models of intelligence, the brain, and so on that this event is even possible, or thinkable.


Is there any relevance in the story of abuse today?

I think yes: the abuse continues but is less obvious… it begins with compulsion, compulsory ‘engagement’, testing etc.

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