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Fear of Maths?

Last Updated on : 8th January 2021

David Wingfield, Headmaster of Eaton House The Manor Pre-Prep discusses the brilliant Maths Mastery method….

Shadows on the wall
Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Maya Angelou

Shadows and noises may all be very well, according to Angelou, but research shows that ‘maths anxiety’, a complex psychological and emotional phenomenon, which combines social threats and a fear of failure, has been found to affect one in ten children from at least the age of eight.

The mastery approach to teaching and learning in mathematics, rooted in the Shanghai and Singapore methods, with their emphasis on a depth of conceptual understanding over breadth of coverage, is arguably a strong means by which to minimise or overcome pupils’ experience of maths anxiety.

Maths mastery is predicated on the simple message that everybody can do maths, and it advocates teaching of concepts via a ‘concrete-pictorial-abstract’ method, an evidence-based theory of learning that advances that children apprehend abstract concepts most effectively through three distinct techniques:

1. Learning through touch: manipulating concrete representations (e.g. ten counters to signify the number 10).
2. Learning through sight: viewing pictorial representations of concrete apparatus (e.g. pictures of ten counters in different arrangements).
3. Learning through independent thought: using abstract representations (e.g. writing the figure ‘10’ and using it as the basis for calculations of one more and one less).

These three techniques need not occur in a linear sequence; they may occur in parallel, with a pupil moving between them until the concept has become deeply embedded. Linked to this principle, concrete, and pictorial resources are not stigmatised as ‘babyish’, to be dropped at the earliest opportunity for ‘hard sums’, but crucial conceptual apparatus that accompany pupils’ learning into senior school, supporting him or her in developing a high level of confidence and expertise.

I like to imagine that if Maya Angelou had included mathematics in her treatment of things that do not frighten in her children’s poem ‘Life Doesn’t Frighten Me At All’, she might have written something along the lines of:

Numbers big and small
Fractions to recall
Maths doesn’t frighten me at all

Here’s to a generation of budding mathematicians aged 4-8, for whom that may be true.

All About Eaton House The Manor Pre-Prep

Eaton House The Manor Pre-Prep’s Cambridge-educated Headmaster Mr David Wingfield joined the school in September 2020. A mathematics specialist, he has been hailed as one of ‘the most motivated teachers’ that the Tatler Good Schools’ Guide 2020 has ever met.

Eaton House Schools consists of Eaton House Belgravia (boys aged 4-11), together with Eaton House The Manor Pre-Prep School (boys aged 4-8), Eaton House The Manor Prep School (boys aged 8-13) and Eaton House The Manor Girls’ School (girls aged 4-11) in Clapham. Both the Belgravia and Clapham sites have co-educational nurseries that feature an Advanced Early Years + Education programme.

To learn more about  Eaton House Schools, contact the Head of Admissions, Miss Sam Feilding, on 0203 917 5050 or register for a Virtual Information Session at www.eatonhouseschools.com.

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