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Mathematical resilience

Bullseye target with 'Comfort' at the centre of the taerget, growth in the next ring out, and 'Anxiety' in the area outside the target

Clare Lee, of the Open University, is one of the team who have developed the construct of “Mathematical Resilience”. If mathematics is difficult to master, and many people say that it is, then learners will need to develop a positive adaptive stance to mathematics such that it will allow them to continue learning despite barriers and difficulties. This positive adaptive stance to mathematics is termed “Mathematical Resilience”. A mathematical learning environment can be a positive place for the pupils where barriers to learning mathematics can be overcome. Pupils who have a high level of mathematical resilience know that it is worth persevering when faced with difficulties and know many ways of doing this, work collaboratively with their peers, have the language skills needed to express their understandings and have a growth theory of mathematical learning.

Research in schools has investigated the impact on student learning of

  1. raising teacher awareness of mathematical resilience, and
  2. teachers using techniques to support student awareness of appropriate levels of resilience, comfort and struggle.

This research speaks to the STEM agenda, which is concerned with the lack of take up of science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics both at ‘A’ level and higher levels, including apprenticeships. Mathematical resilience can enable students to know that they can overcome barriers and thus make them more likely to continue to study and to succeed in that study.