Boosting maths confidence: three in ten teachers would feel anxious solving a maths equation


  • Three in ten (30%) teachers say they would feel anxious if they had to solve a maths problem in front of students, reveals new research from learning and assessment provider Renaissance
  • Two in three (67%) teachers have heard parents talk negatively[1] about maths and four in five (82%) say students speak negatively of the subject
  • With one in four (26%) teachers saying they don’t like maths, Renaissance offers a range of maths solutions to help teachers delivering the subject


New research among 1,035 teachers from learning and assessment provider Renaissance shows three in ten (30%) teachers admit they would feel anxious solving a maths problem in front of students. The survey, conducted by YouGov, also shows one in four (26%) teachers say they do not like maths.


When it comes to solving maths problems, the research revealed female teachers are 11 percentage points more likely to feel anxious about solving one in front of students compared to male teachers (33% vs 22%). Looking at differences in confidence levels between the key stages, secondary teachers are almost twice as likely to say they would feel anxious if they had to solve a maths problem in front of students compared to primary school teachers (41% vs 21%). However, these results may be impacted by primary teachers covering all subjects, including maths, in comparison to secondary teachers who are typically subject specific.


Teachers are not alone in their fears around maths, with two in three (67%) teachers saying they have heard parents speak negatively about maths, and four in five (82%) teachers having heard students speak negatively about the subject.


The negative attitude from parents and teachers towards maths can impact children’s progress in the subject and risk making pupils feeling worried about maths too. The research also explored what teachers see as the main barriers to children enjoying maths: pupils not feeling confident about learning maths (56%), pupils not seeing the real-world applications and benefits of maths (55%) and society encourages a culture where it’s okay to find maths hard (46%).


The new research comes off the back of a recent report from Renaissance and the Education Policy Institute, which revealed maths outcomes for primary aged pupils remain below pre-pandemic levels by the end of the autumn term (2022/23). This amounts to just under 1.5 months’ worth of learning and outcomes for younger year groups are even further behind pre-pandemic norms. This compares to average outcomes in reading which have largely been recovered in primary schools.


To increase maths confidence and inspire the next generation to thrive in the subject, the surveyed teachers say the top tools required are: more engaging maths classroom and homework resources (37%), more maths teachers (34%), and education technology (28%).


Renaissance’s education technology solutions such as Freckle maths practice and Star Maths provide teachers with computer-adaptive formative assessment to personalise learning for each student. These solutions deliver time-saving, data-driven intervention and evidence of attainment for teachers and pupils. Renaissance has made Focus Skills™ Workbooks freely available to schools, to help teachers plan maths lessons that support pupils in learning the skills necessary for them to meet the curriculum requirements for their academic year group. These educational tools save teachers time and support them in creating tailored lesson plans, meaning pupils spend more time learning and are given more specific support for their developmental needs.


Frances Kingston, Renaissance Consultant, says: “Whilst it’s reassuring for teachers and parents to know they are not alone in their anxiety towards maths, we want to foster a culture where these fears are replaced with a sense of confidence that everyone enjoys and thrives at maths.


“Our aim is to reduce teacher workload by providing them with simple technology that tests, marks and analyses their pupils’ knowledge. With that information, they can focus on what they are really there for – to educate pupils, guide their learning development and plan tailored programmes.


“Technology plays an important role in improving confidence levels. At Renaissance, our solutions create unique maths learning pathways for each individual pupil. Each pupil is set work which comfortably stretches and challenges them so they can practise and improve their maths skills in a supported environment. This in turn increases feelings of confidence rather than fear.


Ketrina Teresa, maths lead and Year 6 teacher at a primary in Dorset with a growing education following on TikTok, says: “As a class teacher and maths lead, I have been faced with students, parents and other colleagues who panic about the challenges they may face in maths. I totally understand where this panic comes from but I want to remove some of that dread and empower students, parents and colleagues to feel more confident about maths. Renaissance’s solutions are a great tool to help accelerate students’ learning and boost their growth mindset around maths. The more empowered students feel in the subject, the more their confidence and ability will flourish.


Martin Kelsey, Executive Headteacher at The Raglan Schools, says: “We want all our teachers to feel empowered to teach maths and inspire our students to have a passion for the subject. Teachers, especially at primary schools, have many subjects and curricula to work through. Renaissance’s Star Maths and Freckle help our teachers monitor student comprehension and progress of the topic, while ensuring each student has a truly tailored learning experience.

[1] Net of those who responded: Very frequently + Frequently + Sometimes.