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Institute of Education Blog


Expert opinion from academics at the UCL Institute of Education


Maths anxiety: how can we overcome the ‘can’t do’ attitude?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital1 December 2020

Celia Hoyles. 

The Covid-19 pandemic is raising public anxiety not just about the virus but about the maths being used to explain how it spreads and how it can be controlled. What is the so-called R value? What do we mean by “flattening the curve”?

And if people were not confused enough, what are we to make of a slide like this, shown by the Prime Minister last Spring, which presents us with an equation that makes no mathematical sense? How did you react to it I wonder? I remember thinking I must have heard it wrongly, provoking me to consider the ‘equation’ more carefully. For many it might have been just one more instance of confirming ‘I cannot understand mathematics’.

If the pandemic brings no other benefits, it will surely answer the question: “Why is maths relevant to my life?” But this won’t necessarily help people to process the meaning behind large numbers and complicated graphs presented (more…)