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By Elisa Tancredi, La Trobe University

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been ‘teaching’ maths. I have always loved maths and express it in a fun and positive way. My earliest memory is being in primary school and helping a friend who was struggling with maths. I will never forget her words once she successfully completed her first long multiplication. She turned to me and said “Now why can’t the teacher say it like that?” There was also the time when my sister came to me desperately crying over her maths homework. She told me “You explain stuff better than the teacher”. I now privately tutor maths to high school students and find my time is spent tackling negative attitudes and fears about maths before any ‘real’ teaching begins.

I am also a mother to three young girls. They call me a ‘Maths mum’. In their circle of friends, they feel special and unique. They don’t know anyone else that has a ‘Maths mum’. All three have varying abilities in maths. One of them is in an advanced maths class, while another is in a maths recovery class. However, they all have one thing in common. They all enjoy their maths and they all succeed at it. Maths is a positive experience, it is never negative. We talk about it all the time. I find every opportunity to show them the hidden maths. From reading the clock, shopping for groceries and even in buildings and shapes. I have also shown them my vector calculus notes and told them it was art. I told them Mother Maths is the original artist.

Unfortunately, my girls are up against an opposing force. The negative maths attitude. My daughter’s teacher once said “I don’t know how you can study maths. I hate it. I was never good at it”. My response to her was “Please do not speak with that negative attitude about maths”. This is just one example of this opposing negative force. I assure you, there are many.

The combination of studying maths, raising girls and tutoring has proven to me that a student with a positive attitude, regardless of ability, can succeed in mathematics. There is a world-wide ‘mathematics problem’ [1], with a growing concern that students entering tertiary studies are mathematically under-prepared for science and engineering courses, with maths anxiety seen in some students. My goal is to pursue a career in Mathematics Education and research how attitudes and anxieties amongst students, teachers and parents affects success in mathematics throughout primary, secondary and tertiary years.


[1]             Rylands, L.J., & Coady, C. (2009). Performance of students with weak mathematics in first-year mathematics and science. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 40:6, 741-753. DOI: 10.1080/00207390902914130.


Elisa Tancredi was one of the recipients of a 2015/16 AMSI Vacation Research Scholarship.