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Maths phobics wanted for new research project

24 June 2014

If you or your child are flummoxed by fractions, can’t remember the three times table, or break out in a cold sweat at the mere mention of the word maths, then you might be able to help with some exciting new research.

Psychologists Dr Elena Rusconi and Dr Janet McLean from Abertay University, along with Dundee City Council, are trying to get to the bottom of why it is that so many people find it difficult to learn maths.

They would like as many people as possible - including those who have no strong feelings about maths and those who find it easy - to take part in their worldwide survey.

The survey will help the scientists build up as complete a picture as possible of how people feel about maths, and will enable them to develop new ways of teaching the subject so that those currently at a disadvantage will have the same opportunities as everyone else.

In a recent report, Pro Bono Economics highlighted the fact that low numeracy has important implications in terms of employment and life prospects, and an estimated cost to the UK economy of more than £20 billion per year.

Drs Rusconi and McLean are looking for parents to take part in their survey to help them – in the long term - address these issues.

Dr Rusconi explains:

"Although in recent years it has been established that a small percentage of people have something called developmental dyscalculia - which is similar to dyslexia, but related to numbers - it has actually been estimated that in some parts of the UK, almost half the adult population shows, at best, the same levels of numeracy expected in primary school children.

"Lots of people report having difficulties with maths - both at school and in everyday life - and, although there are lots of theories, we don’t yet know exactly why this is.

"There are cognitive aspects - such as the ability to remember arithmetic facts and the order in which numbers should appear, for example - but there are also emotional factors at play, such as the worry that solving mathematical problems can cause, which actually impairs performance.

"So this research will help us find out what factors play a role in making it difficult to learn maths. It’s just a really quick online survey but the information it gives us will be vital in helping us come up with ways to help make learning maths easier for those who have these difficulties, so that they have better employment and life prospects and are able to contribute positively to the economy."

Parents can take the survey in relation to themselves and then repeat it in relation to their child/children.

The survey is hosted by and can be found here:

All the results will be completely anonymous.


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07972172158 E:

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