Eighty per cent of the students, observed at Manchester Metropolitan University, admitted they found maths intimidating when they were at school.
The result is a vicious circle of bad teaching, say the authors of Primary-school teachers' understanding of mathematics and its teaching - published by the Economic and Social Research Council.
A research council spokesman said: "Of the students interviewed, who were all non-maths specialists, the majority had found maths at school intimidating.
"When feelings about maths were explored, some intense emotions surfaced, ranging from pure hatred to, as one student put it, 'a horrific experience'. The students' experience of maths at school had been overwhelmingly negative."
The teaching students said they did not want not to pass their anxieties on to the next generation, although their good intentions were not always realised when they reached school.
The council said the pressure of the school environment increases students' likelihood of following the patterns of teaching they so loathed when they were pupils. Teaching for the first time, they find themselves under pressure to conform with conventional practice.
As one student said: "It's OK in theory but once you get into a classroom and you are faced with 30 children it's different."
The council said the students remembered having teachers who concentrated on "a version of maths dominated by concern for correct answers which pupils experienced as pressure to get it right or failure in getting it wrong".
The report added: "We confirmed widespread anxieties among our target group concerning their learning of maths and of the prospect of teaching it themselves."
The report is available from the Economic and Social Research Council. Telephone: (01793) 413 122. Fax: (01793) 413 130.