News & Events

How nervousness around numbers steers students away from STEM: A matter for public policy

Speaker: Dr. Flavia Santos, School of Psychology, UCD

Location: B003/004 UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy

Date: Tuesday, November 29th, 2022 from 13:00 (Dublin)


Maths is crucial for technological development and further discoveries worldwide. However, primary and secondary schools are not seen as the cradle of this process. In Ireland, the Leaving Certificate, the admission exam to the university, relies on Maths and English grades. According to international large-scale assessments, Irish adolescents show an average high maths score compared with other countries. Nevertheless, when the same adolescents are distributed across the levels of maths performance, the percentages of Irish students who succeeded in the most complex items, were lower in comparison with other countries with the same average scores. A plausible explanation is that Irish students’ achievement was hampered by maths anxiety. Earlier studies indeed observed higher levels of maths anxiety in Irish students and with a larger impact on girls and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Then, it has policy implications for the benefit of society and individuals. I argue that a child with maths anxiety will become a parent or a teacher with maths anxiety and this might perpetuate this hampering cycle. Maths anxiety may affect students’ achievement, and career choices as well as teachers’ well-being and self-efficacy. Maths anxiety characteristics and its impact on maths education will be discussed. Also, good practices in the classroom to mitigate maths anxiety including the Arithmós Project will be addressed.