The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
Maths Anxiety can be described as “an emotion that blocks a person’s reasoning ability when confronted with a mathematical situation” [Spicer 2004], in an extreme form, “when confronted with a math problem, the sufferer has sweaty palms, is nauseous, has heart palpitations, and experiences paralysis of thought” [Krantz 1999]. Unsurprisingly, students with maths anxiety, frequently react with avoidance techniques such as delaying study or not studying regularly, putting them at high risk of failure or withdrawal, impacting progression and retention rates. Whilst maths anxiety has been recognised by academics for over half a century, little work has been done within the Open University to establish its extent within our population, how it is affected by distance learning and what techniques can be used to mitigate its effects.
This project continues from the project “Exploring the extent of maths anxiety within the STEM faculty at the Open University”, which discovered that there were a significant proportion of level 1 students that are suffering with maths anxiety.
The aim of the project is to create a suite of resources, to be ready for 24B where students can be directed to establish their level of maths anxiety, use self-guided support, register for a group support session and receive one-to-one support to help alleviate the symptoms and issues that arise through Maths anxiety. As well as providing a suite of self-guided support, we would also train up to 10 ALs, selected from level 1 modules across the faculty to become Maths Anxiety champions, that would be able to advise module teams and other ALs on supporting students with maths anxiety, flagging the individual support system as appropriate.
The suite of resources will sit on the wellbeing section of the maths study site and be accessible to all students with a PI, it will be created by members of this scholarship project team from resources freely available from external sources. We have already had initial meetings with Jenny Hillman, senior manager of the PLA and they have spoken to the SST and both are excited about the project and keen to run the group sessions.
The support provided will be centred around coping with maths anxiety, rather than supporting students with maths skills.
Feedback from students that have used the self-guided support, group sessions and individual support will be gained via short open form questionnaires after the activities, and reflections on the results will be used to help improve the resources and establish if they have helped.