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Two-thirds of mums say they lack maths confidence with half worried about the impact of coronavirus on their children’s maths progress


New research released today has shown that two-thirds of mums in England lack confidence in maths and are concerned about their ability to help their children with maths learning. Despite mums being most likely to help their children with maths homework (70%), two-fifths say they feel anxious doing so due to a lack of confidence in the subject. 

The survey of 2,000 mothers and female carers with children aged 11-16 years old was commissioned by Numerise in early October and sought to uncover how mums feel about maths and their views on how lockdown is affecting their children’s maths confidence and progress this school year. This initial research focused on mums’ attitudes given that studies show three quarters of mums report taking the lead in home learning.  

A significant number of mums reported that low maths confidence impacts their ability to help their children with their maths learning (40%). Worryingly, low maths confidence leaves a third of mums dreading doing maths in everyday life and a quarter pretend to know more about maths than they really do. 

Similarly, 40% reported that their child suffers from low maths confidence, with a third of children expressing anxiety about maths to their parents. Concerns about maths can lead to tension at home and a quarter of mums say that maths homework causes tensions, with a fifth saying that it even leads to arguments.

In response to mums’ concerns about low maths confidence, Numerise has launched The Confidence Lab, an online hub of information and inspiration to help children and their grown-ups to build maths confidence. 

The Confidence Lab’s launch is supported by television presenter, ex-CBBC presenter and mum of two, Angellica Bell who said:

“It is so important as a parent to feel confident about maths. That doesn’t mean you need to know all the answers all the time, it’s about showing your children that difficult things can be overcome with practice and patience. If you lack maths confidence and shy away from it, those anxieties might influence your children; it can be a vicious cycle. I think it’s important that my children feel confident about maths, because it will help them so much in their later life. That’s why I am so supportive of Numerise’s message, that when it comes to maths learning, confidence, practice and a little patience can make a world of difference. 

Numerise is an online, home-learning maths platform that engages, motivates and supports children and young people to build the skills and confidence they need to reach their maths potential. Built on a decade of research and evidence, Numerise is for 10 to 16-year old’s covering Key Stage 3 through to GCSE Maths and delivers personalised maths practice to each learner. 

Angellica added: 

“When I was young, I grew to love maths – it didn’t come naturally to me at first and I ended up needing extra help for a short period of time. That was a real turning point for me, and those sorts of memories can inspire you later in life. They show you can overcome challenges!” 

Lucy Davis, CEO of Maths on Toast, the family maths charity, whose mission is to offer families the opportunity and support to engage with maths in creative, fun and approachable ways said:

“We want everyone to feel positive about maths – to feel it is something they can do, and enjoy. Maths on Toast offers creative and hands-on maths activities and ideas to take time over and explore as a family or community. This playful approach provides positive experiences of maths leading to a willingness to try things out and ultimately a confident and can-do attitude.

“Many adults have a rigid perception of maths – they may have had negative experiences of maths learning or may feel they are ‘just not maths people’. Research shows this attitude is often passed through families and from adult to child. But maths is part of our everyday lives and all around us – we are often using it without realising. Confidence in maths first starts with being comfortable with exploring maths. Parents can become comfortable and build confidence by sharing and shaping their child’s maths journey from an early age, opening their eyes to the maths all around us and encouraging exploration of how we do maths. Making mistakes is a key part of learning in maths as in everyday life. Maths is nothing to be feared – it provides wonderful opportunities for creativity, play, exploration and develops crucial skills for life. Maths on Toast aim to inspire families with children between 4 and 12 years of age but the concept of creatively exploring maths can be used at all ages.

“We are supportive of any campaign to increase confidence in maths, especially where it encourages all generations to support each other in maths learning.” 

Angellica concluded:

“As an adult, I feel confident in maths. In the last year, a lot of parents and adults have had to get their head around equations and the like, to help their children learn at home. I’ve enjoyed connecting with numbers again. What I love about maths is that there’s always a right answer. Practice definitely helps with maths confidence. When you start a new topic, it will seem strange and alien and maybe a little bit difficult but working through it systematically is key. Numerise is a fantastic way for children to be supported and engaged in maths practice that builds confidence and supports them on their own maths journeys.”  

Lockdown equals added maths anxiety for mums

Numerise’s research also found that, after a month into the new school year, nearly half of mums are worried that lockdown will have an impact on their child’s performance in maths. For a third, the lasting effects of lockdown are a real concern as they feel their child won’t be able to catch up on the maths they missed during this time. 

Getting access to extra maths support to help children catch up is also an issue. A third said their child has not had access to any extra maths support at school, with the same number unclear about any plans schools have to close the gap. 

Furthermore, two-thirds of mums have had no information about the government’s catch up tutoring programme.

Former Teacher of the Year and founder of the hugely popular school maths platform, HegartyMaths, Colin Hegarty, Director of Education for Numerise said:

“With mums being the most likely person to help children with their homework, parents should feel empowered, confident and capable to support children’s maths practice. To improve the situation, we need to build a new, maths-confident generation. 

“This is where mums, dads and carers can play a huge role in building their child’s maths confidence. Encouraging children to practise maths and see it as an achievable goal is vital. However, with their own low maths confidence and with anxiety around the impact of lockdown on their children’s maths abilities, mums are unsure where to turn.” 

The research also showed that mums are keen to take matters into their own hands; 40% would like to engage a maths tutor but say it is too expensive. However, 65% say apps and websites would provide a good alternative to face-to-face maths tuition.

Colin continued:

“Building confidence through effective and engaging practice is key. That’s why we are launching The Confidence Lab. Here, parents and children will find tools that engage children in rewarding maths practice as well as information and inspiration to build maths confidence and create a new generation of maths-confident adults.”

Take me to the confidence lab