Breaking the Anxiety Chain - the role of ITT institutions in reducing maths anxiety in primary teacher trainees.

Grant type: Development (2000-08)
Round: October 2008
Amount awarded £2,000.00
Completed: March 2010
Leader(s): Dr Marcus Witt
Organisation: Bath Spa University
Contact Email:
Contact phone: 01225 875837
Jill Mansergh
School of Education, Bath Spa University.
Start Date: 11 December 2008
End Date: 30 October 2009
Interim report received: 16 July 2009
Final report received: 6 January 2010
Many people entering primary teacher training do so despite the fact that they will be required to teach mathematics. A significant minority of primary teacher trainees come to their training with high levels of anxiety about maths (Unglaub, 1997). Their feelings about mathematics are often highly emotional (Hogden and Askew, 2007) and usually as a result of their experiences of learning mathematics. This is highly important, as anxious teachers tend to make less effective mathematics teachers (Gershan, 2008) and often pass their anxieties on to the children they teach (Burnett and Wichmann, 1997), creating a chain of anxiety about mathematics. Children who are anxious about mathematics are less likely to perform well at mathematical tasks (Ma and Xu, 2004), are less likely to study mathematics beyond the compulsory level (Brown et al, 2008) and are likely to avoid careers, which demand high levels of mathematics. There is evidence to suggest that primary teacher trainees’ attitudes towards mathematics and their levels of anxiety do not remain constant through their PGCE year, but are subject to change (Brown et al, 1999). However, it is not clear precisely what causes these changes and whether institutions offering primary teacher training are making provision to help anxious trainees overcome their anxieties and become effective teachers of primary mathematics. Intended outcomes for the project will be a better indication of the nature of the attitudes that primary teacher trainees bring to their PGCE year and the reasons for these attitudes. Additionally, the research aims to examine the reasons for trainees’ changing attitudes. This will then help teacher education providers to reduce these anxieties and foster more positive attitudes towards mathematics, which trainees will then pass on to the children they teach. It is hoped that the project will produce some practical outcomes that could be made easily available to other teacher education institutions (see section below on dissemination).