If the thought of doing math gives your students anxiety, they’re not alone. Studies have shown that math anxiety occurs in students as early as elementary school, and can continue into their college years. Even students who have demonstrated proficiency in math can struggle with stress at times. The good news is, there are plenty of things you can do to tackle math anxiety head-on.
What Causes Math Anxiety?
A variety of factors can lead to a student’s fear of math. He could be anxious about timed tests since math is a subject where quickness is especially valued. When faced with a ticking clock, a student may find it more difficult to concentrate without getting anxious.
A student may worry about getting a problem wrong in front of her peers. Teachers often instruct students to solve math problems on the board or in some other public way, leading to increased anxiety for students who are perfectionists.
Math anxiety can also be caused by factors outside the classroom. If a student hears a parent at home tell her, “I hated math in school,” or “math is hard,” she is more likely to take that attitude to the classroom and this can lead to feelings of inadequacy when it comes to math.
How Can You Reduce Math Anxiety?
Do not let your own hesitations or negativity about math influence your students. Stay upbeat when teaching math, and reassure your students that they will “get it” in time. The same goes for home support—consider a note to parents reminding them to put a positive spin on math homework.
Embrace Their Fears
Anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Worrying about something means you care about it, so use your students’ anxiety in a beneficial way. Let your students write down their fears about math and take some time to discuss their anxiety. Talk about ways to tackle their fear and help them see they can overcome it. Check out this video to see how three simple words can help your students reframe their anxiety.
Use Real-World Examples
Some students may dislike math because they can’t relate it to the real world. Address this problem and reduce their math anxiety by providing math resources that focus on real life. The more a student can relate to a math problem (tackling a problem about horseback riding or a beach trip, for example), the more likely he is to relax about doing the work.
Go At Their Pace
Some students will naturally excel at math, while others struggle. Help your students who need more support by providing tools to let them master math without building anxiety. Use parent helpers or small-group instruction to provide extra practice and support for students who need it. Remember, sometimes slow and steady wins the race.
Make Math Fun
Incorporate board games and group activities into your lessons that teach math while also providing opportunities for fun. Your students will learn while they laugh. Find some fun ideas here.