The new specifications (beginning September 2015) emphasise the importance of Maths skills in all science subjects. In fact the content is only slightly different from what is currently there but it appears to be creating anxiety. A piece on the BBC website discusses maths anxiety, a well-studied phenomenon. One thought is that increased levels of emotion reduce the capacity of working memory making it more difficult to work on problems. The article also points to the effect of teacher anxiety on student performance – teachers who are concerned by maths performance may damage their own students’ performance.
One study on the effect of the stereotype threat found that girls do less well on a maths test if they are reminded of the ‘girls are less good at maths’ stereotype just before taking a maths test – all that is required is that they are reminded of their gender. This shows how easy it is to arouse maths anxiety in the classroom, and in the same way ‘research methods anxiety’ may be unwittingly aroused.