Why might some pupils not like triangles? – You’ll never guess…

Running an after school maths club last year, I decided to use our study of ratio to introduce the basics of trigonometry to some Year 8 pupils.  A Year 9 pupil had turned up, but her teacher wasn’t available.  I invited her to join us.  She informed me that she hated triangles.  I asserted that very soon she would love them.  Lots of exploration of the ratios in triangles passed by, and sadly the Year 9 pupil still wasn’t impressed.  Oh well, I tried.  She made a point to add something though: it wasn’t just triangles, it was any topic that had lots of angles in it, anything with the degree symbol …ah!

One year earlier, I taught a Year 10 lesson, had drawn some diagram up on the board with lots of circles, and left it there.  A while later, one of the pupils near the front asked me to rub it off the board.  Naturally I was a little baffled as to why she would care whether it was on the board or not.  She informed me that she had a genuine phobia of holes, and she couldn’t bear to look at the image.  I was mildly sceptical; not that I thought she would lie… but fear of holes?  I looked it up there and then, and sure enough, I present to you: Trypophobia.



Now, I agree, this image is kinda creepy, but some people seem to have a much stronger reaction to it.  If you’re one of them… sorry!

Getting back to my Year 9 pupil with the distaste for triangles and other angle work, we tried looking at a few of the images that pop up in Google for ‘fear of holes’ or ‘trypophobia’.  Sure enough, stronger negative reaction than the rest of us there.  In angle work, it wasn’t the topic of study she didn’t like, it seems it was all the diagrams with angles and degree symbols and zeroes flying around.

So there we have it; for my part, didn’t see that one coming!  Has anyone else ever experienced anything like this with a pupil at school?

About Kris Boulton

Teach First 2011 maths teacher, focussed on curriculum design.
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2 Responses to Why might some pupils not like triangles? – You’ll never guess…

  1. Rodger Caseby says:

    Really interesting. Not seen this but spiders are a classic. Several years ago a KS2 writing SAT paper had a picture of a spider – several kids could barely look at it!

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