math anxiety

What is Math Anxiety?

  • Nisha’s mother is a math teacher and is very strict about the accuracy of her answers. Nisha performs all the functions correctly, but her answers are messed up.
  • Chris has to solve 40 math problems in 30 minutes for his test. He thinks to himself “Oh God! I won’t be able to do it. I am going to fail.”
  • Jason is called in front of the class to solve a two-digit multiplication problem. All eyes are on him. He is scared that he may go wrong with the problem just like last time.

Researchers have proved that math anxiety or extreme fear of math is not just a myth, but a reality. If your kids shiver at the mention of the subject or consider themselves hopeless at it; If they feel helpless while doing their math homework or go blank during math tests, then there is a possibility that they are suffering from math anxiety.

Causes of Math Anxiety

According to Marilyn Curtain-Phillips, author of the book Math Attack, there are three common practices that cause math anxiety:

  • Imposed Authority
  • Public Exposure
  • Timed Deadlines

Therefore, there is a need to re-examine practices and methods causing this problem and also to structure lessons and classes in such a way that children do not feel threatened while studying math.

Dealing with Math Anxiety

A kid comes face to face with math anxiety mainly during two situations; while doing their homework or while appearing for math tests. Here are few tips to help children cope with math phobia and providing a much needed math help.

1. Homework Anxiety

math anxiety with math homework
  • Draw and solve: Encourage your kid to create drawings to solve math problems. This diversion from traditional method would make the homework engaging and will also help the kid in coping with her math fear. This will also ensure that the child is getting acquainted with the fact that there is always more than one way of solving any problem.
  • Talk it out: Talking about the problem is another great way of dealing with the issue. Talk to your kid and find out what is causing the anxiety. Give them space to be honest and lend them a patient ear. Talking not only helps in breaking mind barriers, but also in finding solutions to problems, be it a math problem or anything else.
  • Face the challenge: If your child has math phobia, it is possible that math may be her least favorite subject. This may cause her to leave math homework for the last. Encourage your kid to take up the challenge first. Ask her to do the math homework first as leaving it for later might make it seem tougher due to mental tiredness.
  • Take a break: If your kid seems completely stuck at a math problem, ask her to get back to it after taking a short break. Encourage her to refresh her mind, but ensure that she actually gets back to her homework and completes it.

2. Test Anxiety

math anxiety during math test
  • No over studying: Do not let them ‘over-study’. Studying too much; going over the text again and again would not lead to better results. It would only overwhelm and confuse them.
  • Keep calm: Help them calm their nerves. Keep the atmosphere as normal as possible. Give them healthy food, ample sleep and let them wear their favorite clothes. This may seem trivial, but it greatly helps in calming kids’ nerves.
  • Equip for zero-hour: Talk to them in advance about panicking during exams. Ask them to attempt that question first that they can easily solve. Teach them to relax by taking deep breaths or by stretching in the case of a panic situation. Equip them in advance to deal with the zero-hour.

Few More Tips…

There are many other methods that parents and teachers can adopt in order to help children get rid of their fear of math:

  • Refrain from speaking about your own fear of math in front of your kids.
  • Engage kids in practical math through experimentation, exploration and thinking instead of rote learning.
  • Relate math with day-to-day activities; it will help them learn math better.
  • Employ innovative math board games, fun-filled printable math worksheets etc to make math more fun and interesting for kids.

Something to Reflect Upon

Parents and teachers should understand that the learning capabilities of kids these days are very different. Also, understand that not every child will learn in the same way. These days, active learning has greater power than passive learning. Children should be allowed to ask questions, exchange ideas, and express themselves. Humor is also a great means to break from routine and helps induce learning.

So, next time if your child shows any sign of distancing himself or herself from math, don’t just waive off the matter. Instead identify the symptoms of the issue and help your kid overcome the math anxiety. Performing well in math is not a quality acquired through genes or heredity; it is something that everyone can learn, provided they are taught in the right manner.