The purpose of the study was to explore rural high school learners' experience of mathematics anxiety in academic settings. Mathematics anxiety has been found to have an adverse effect on confidence, motivation and achievement. This quantitative study is exploratory and descriptive in nature. The participants were 403 learners doing mathematics in 18 rural schools in the Free State province of South Africa. Participants completed a 20-item questionnaire and 373 (92.5%) questionnaires were found to contain valid responses and were analysed by a professional statistician at the University of the Free State using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), Version 17.0. The questionnaire was testedfor reliability using the Cronbach alpha coefficient and was found to have a reliability score of .841, indicating an acceptable reliability coefficient. Findings reveal that all learners sometimes, often, or always experience mathematics anxiety in academic settings. It is therefore important for teachers and authorities in education to observe its prevalence and to implement strategies toward the alleviation of the effects ofmathematics anxiety.