Teacher resources: Mathematics anxiety and engagement

We know that mathematics anxiety and poor mathematics attitudes negatively impact mathematical learning and achievement-related choices.

Over the last 10 years, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) has developed an evidence-based, multidisciplinary approach to understand and address mathematics anxiety.

Since 2018, this work has been part of the Mathematics Anxiety and Engagement Strategy (MAES). The strategy has focused on helping pre-service and practicing primary teachers to address mathematics anxiety in themselves and their students.

A more recent project has enabled the MAES team to expand and develop the MAES framework further, to include considerations in secondary education contexts. This included:

  • an update and expansion of the existing literature review on mathematics anxiety to include the secondary education sector and context
  • inclusion of a further barrier to mathematics engagement, with mitigation strategies.

A recent partnership with the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership (the Academy) has shown how classroom resources can be developed from the MAES framework.

MAES framework

At its core, the MAES framework has 2 components: (1) understanding and addressing mathematics anxiety, and (2) encouraging the valuing of mathematics. There is overlap within these components, as we know that we only become anxious about phenomena that we value in some way.

The MAES framework explains mathematics anxiety and valuing of mathematics so that users can understand the details and nuances of these challenges before implementing strategies that provide support. As an example, the framework explains the causes and symptoms of mathematics anxiety – causes of mathematics anxiety tend to be attitudes, patterns of thinking or beliefs, while symptoms are felt in the moment and can be cognitive or physiological. Once this is understood, we can then implement strategies to address both to effectively reduce mathematics anxiety in the long term.

The MAES framework has been written for policymakers, school leaders, teachers, and education stakeholders wanting to target key barriers to positive mathematics engagement with evidence-based approaches. The framework, however, will be useful for anyone with an interest in understanding and addressing mathematics anxiety, with the goal of reducing anxiety-related negative outcomes. Non-mathematics teachers may also be interested in seeing how anxiety presents and can be addressed in a mathematics classroom, and to consider what might transfer well to their own context.

Resource development

In the partnership with the Academy, resources were developed that drew on the MAES framework with the goal of equipping teachers, parents, caregivers, and students to:

  1. understand and effectively address mathematics anxiety
  2. encourage valuing of mathematics.

The ultimate goal through using the resources is to foster positive mathematics engagement for all students in the classroom and reduce the negative impact of mathematics anxiety.

Teacher resources were designed with the classroom environment in mind to provide both point-in-time and longer-term support materials. Parent and caregiver resources were designed to be broadly accessible and useful in the home environment. All the resources focus on students’ needs to encourage engagement and ensure the activities are relevant for each individual situation.

In combination, these new resources provide the following:

  • A summary of research from the fields of education, psychology and neuroscience related to the impact of anxiety, confidence and value in mathematical engagement and learning.
  • Multidisciplinary strategies for reducing anxiety and improving value and confidence that draw on this science-of-learning approach.
  • Implementation strategies and ideas for the secondary mathematics classroom.
  • Ideas for support in the home environment that will complement classroom strategies.

How to access the resources

An overview of the research that underpins the Framework is presented in ACER’s Mathematics Anxiety and Engagement Strategy (MAES): a framework (Buckley et al., 2024).

A podcast series that captures key elements of the MAES framework has also been produced, which focuses on:

  1. Mathematics anxiety and how to reduce that anxiety.
  2. Personal connections with and valuing of mathematics.
  3. The importance of partnering with parents and caregivers, and how to encourage supportive conversations about mathematics.

The series is designed to be used together with the resources. It discusses key points in the MAES framework, and introduces the resources, research behind them, and how they can be used to improve mathematics engagement.

The resources are aimed at teachers, parents, and caregivers. They include classroom activity ideas to assist with addressing mathematics anxiety and improve valuing of and confidence in mathematics. An infographic is also available for parents and caregivers including ideas for how to have mathematics conversations at home. All of the resources are available at the link.


Buckley, S., Reid, K., Pearn, C. & Sniedze, S. (2024). ACER’s Mathematics Anxiety and Engagement Strategy (MAES): A framework. Australian Council for Educational Research. https://doi.org/10.37517/978-1-74286-736-6