Pop the “maths anxiety” bubble

An approach to support nursing students to self-manage anxiety while studying drug calculation


  • Hua Dai Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland




dyslexia, dyscalculia, anxiety management, triune brain, Psychosynthesis BFM map, maths anxiety


This is a report on an informal action research undertaken between 2013 and 2014 to find solutions to support tertiary nursing students experiencing anxiety while studying drug calculation. The literature identifies traditional “maths anxiety” and modern-day specific categorisations of “dyslexia” and “dyscalculia” yet offers no clear solution on how to support students. I explored the constructive-developmental perspective of human development, the conception of the triune brain, and the psychosynthesis conceptual map of body-feelings-mind, in order to develop an approach to help students navigate their daily experience on campus and consciously express their will to succeed. These techniques proved to be successful, evidenced in the overwhelmingly positive feedback from both students and maths tutors. This article invites colleagues within the broader ATLAANZ community to adapt and apply this approach in their practice to support students with anxiety to succeed while studying.

Author Biography

Hua Dai, Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland

Learning Advisor |  Senior Lecturer | Learning Centre



Deslandes, A., Moraes, H., Ferreira, C., Veiga, H., Silveira, H., Mouta, R., Pompeu, F. A. M. S., Coutinho, E. S. F., & Laks, J. (2009). Exercise and mental health: Many reasons to move. Neuropsychobiology 59(4),191-198. https://doi.org/10.1159/000223730

Dreger, R. M., & Aiken, L. R. (1957). The identification of number anxiety in a college population. Journal of Educational Psychology,48(6), 344-351. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0045894

Erickson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and society. Vintage Books.

Hillman, J. (1996). The soul’s code: In search of character and calling. Grand Central Publishing.

Jordan, J. A., McGladdery, G., & Dyer, K. (2014, August 30). Dyslexia in higher education: Implications for maths anxiety, statistics anxiety and psychological well‐being. Psychology & Psychiatry Journal, 20(3), 225-240. https://doi.org/10.1002/dys.1478

Kegan, R. (1982). The evolving self: Problem and process in human development. Harvard University Press.

Kegan, R. (1994). In over our heads: The mental demands of modern life. Harvard University Press.

Khasawneh, E., Gosling, C., & Williams, B. (2021). What impact does maths anxiety have on university students? BMC Psychology, 9(1), 37. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-021-00537-2

MacDonald, C. (n.d.). The role of values in wisdom. http://www.wisdompage.com/roleofvalues.html

Mammarella, I.C., Hill, F., Devine, A., Caviola, S., & Szűcs, D. (2015). Maths anxiety and developmental dyscalculia: A study on working memory processes. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 37(8), 878-887. https://doi.org/10.1080/13803395.2015.1066759

Marriam, S. B. & Tisdell, E. J. (2016). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation (4th ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand (2019, November). About anxiety. https://mentalhealth.org.nz/conditions/condition/anxiety

Palmer, H. (2010). Psychosynthesis in the South Pacific: Ontological and epistemological considerations in the context of Aotearoa New Zealand. [Psychosynthesis Monograph, 10]. Institute of Psychosynthesis.

Smith, C. U. M. (2010). The triune brain in antiquity: Plato, Aristotle, Erasistratus. Journal of The History of the Neurosciences,19(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/09647040802601605