Fear factor

Students can feel a "nameless dread" of maths similar to that experienced by an infant when its mother is struggling to cope. Jenny Shaw, a senior research fellow at Sussex University, made the observation in a seminar held by the Economic and Social Research Council at Edinburgh University last week. She used the example of a scenario where the mother is frightened, does not accept projections of anger, fear and panic from her infant, or return them in a more tolerable, understood form. Instead, she bats them away so that they lose all meaning and become a "nameless dread".

Ms Shaw suggested that the most effective way to produce disaffection with maths would be to give lots of tests and use impersonal marking systems.

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