Why Didn’t the Pre-Arrival Intervention to Combat Maths Anxiety Work?


There has been a growing demand for advanced quantitative skills in UK workplaces in the last twenty years. In response to this, the foundation programme in this study mandates social science, business and biology students to complete a 30-credit mathematics module in their foundation year. However, these students often arrived with grades 4 and 5 at GCSE, and many struggled with the content and suffered from maths anxiety. To combat this, a pre-arrival mathematics intervention was implemented to target these students. The intervention lasted for approximately four weeks and was delivered weekly using the online platform MyMaths, with support from a foundation programme lecturer. The students’ maths anxiety was measured in a pre-test post-test design with the 23-item item Mathematics Anxiety Scale – UK (MAS-UK) instrument. Despite the efforts invested, the outcomes did not show any significant reduction in the students’ maths anxiety, although written feedback and a focus group showed the intervention eased their cognitive anxiety responses to maths. This study recognises that maths anxiety may be deeply ingrained from childhood and therefore a longer-term strategy rather than a short intervention may be required to permanently reduce students’ anxiety around mathematics. Recommendations for practical strategies for tutors are presented.


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Author Biographies

Jinhua Mathias, Durham University

Dr Jinhua Mathias is an associate professor at Durham University. She has a PhD degree in Civil Engineering from University College London and a PGCE qualification from the Institute of Education. She specialises in teaching foundation level mathematics for non-traditional students seeking to pursue undergraduate studies in both STEM and non-STEM subjects. She is a senior fellow of HEA and an active researcher in non-traditional student learning in mathematics. She also serves on the organising committee of the North East Three Rivers Consortium. Email: Jinhua.mathias@durham.ac.uk

Rachel Victoria Staddon, Durham University

Dr Rachel V Staddon joined the School of Education at Durham University as a lecturer in 2021. She has been working with the Foundation Programme at Durham for a number of years as both an external examiner and now as a collaborator. She previously spent seven years teaching foundation-level maths, statistics and chemistry at the University of Sheffield. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and her research interests lie in reducing maths anxiety, developing flipped learning pedagogies, and the use of educational technology in higher education. Email: rachel.v.staddon@durham.ac.uk