Maths anxiety and communication apprehension as barriers to learning mathematics.
As learners progress through the educational system their interest in mathematics diminishes. Although mathematics is designed to challenge learners, it has produced a high number of failures. Mathematics is most often measured by speed and accuracy of learners’ computation with little emphasis on problem solving and pattern finding. Whilst there are not many opportunities for learners to work on rich mathematical tasks that require divergent thinking as well. Such an approach limits the use of creativity in the classroom and reduces mathematics to a set of skills to master and rules to memorise. In doing so, causes many learners to become anxious and apprehensive. Thus their curiosity and enthusiasm for mathematics disappear, as they get older. Keeping learners interested and engaged in mathematics by recognising and valuing their mathematical creativity may reverse this negative tendency. 97 learners from Riverview High School took part in the study. Three different instruments were used to collect data: Mathematics Anxiety Scale (MAS), Personal Report of Communication Apprehension (PRCA-24) and a focus group interview. The MAS questionnaire was used to measure the level of mathematics anxiety experienced by the learners. The PRCA-24 questionnaire is a self-report measure of communication apprehension. The underlying factors were established that were influential in determining the levels of maths anxiety and communication apprehension in individual learners. The results of the study suggest that learner’ ability and attitude played an important role that would lead to the large failure rate in mathematics. Analysis and interpretation of the findings lead to the following conclusions being reached: (a) perceptions of mathematics as being a difficult subject (b) learners negative attitude in mathematics (c) fear for the subject, (d) learners self-efficacy beliefs in mathematics, (e) peer behaviour and (f) teacher behaviour. The research study findings suggest that learner’ ability and attitude played an important role. These attitudes contribute directly to the existence of maths anxiety and communication apprehension in learners which impacts on their academic performance. The results of the study suggest that learners experience varying levels of maths anxiety and communication apprehension that impacts on their performance in Mathematics, which are barriers to learning mathematics.