A Detailed Overview of Math Anxiety in Kids
19 minutes read
Created: December 17, 2023
Last updated: January 5, 2024
Kids and adults sometimes shy away from mathematics and related subjects because of the challenging nature of disciplines. But there’s a difference between not liking math and being scared of it. When parents and teachers don’t detect math anxiety in their kids, the latter could have poor foundational math skills. So, this article provides the math anxiety definition, its symptoms and causes, and the ways to tackle the problem.
What Is Math Anxiety?
Math anxiety is a state of mind that prevents kids from doing well in math-related activities like calculations, counting, geometry, etc. Even though there may be several reasons why kids are disinterested in math, anxiety is frequently the root cause. The condition affects kids of all ages, races, and genders.
Math is not a favorite subject for many children because it requires numerous calculations and understanding of complicated concepts. When encountering difficult tasks, many students feel stressed and disoriented, which eventually makes them fail. Math anxiety can lead to an emotional breakdown, stomach upset, faster heartbeat, nausea, a feeling of faintness, and lots more conditions.
Math Anxiety Symptoms
Sometimes, teachers and parents cannot recognize when a child has math anxiety because they feel kids are just being lazy. Often, math anxiety can be present even when kids are hardworking and try to put in their best. Here are some symptoms of math anxiety so that you may identify it spot-on and deal with the problem in time.
Avoiding math classes
Anxious kids look for any excuse to leave the classroom during math lessons. When a kid has math anxiety, they sometimes make repeated trips to the bathroom or sickbay. Other times, they may even perform all manner of theatrics to avoid school.
Children with math anxiety get to do little or no math without attracting too much attention. Such kids tend to bring up all manner of excuses and plots to ensure that they boycott all math lessons, whether at home or school.
Students who suffer from math test anxiety may get flustered when confronted with any math problem. Even if they know the answer, kids may still be too scared to say it. Since children are about to have a meltdown, they cannot think or articulate their thoughts properly.
You may recognize if a child has math anxiety if they cry or get angry while solving math problems. They may often throw tantrums and tear their books or deliberately disrupt class activities. Usually, this is a feeling of frustration, and kids need some way to vent.
Students with math anxiety tend to look down on themselves and assume that they can never get their answers right. Even when kids solve math problems correctly, they doubt the result and think they are wrong. Negative thoughts about oneself and own skills is a common symptom of math anxiety.
Kids who have math anxiety perform poorly. They often fail exams and assignments because they have less exposure to math than their peers. As a result, those children learn to interpret poor marks as a confirmation that they are slobs and can never do well in math.
Impact of Math Anxiety
The impact of math anxiety can be far-reaching. It can:
- Lower confidence and self-esteem
- Hinder academic progress
- Limit career choices
- Affect everyday tasks involving numeracy
These effects underscore the importance of addressing and overcoming math anxiety as soon as it is identified.
Managing and Overcoming Math Anxiety
Fortunately, math anxiety is not an insurmountable problem. Here are a few techniques that can help children overcome their fear of mathematics:
Positive Reinforcement: Encourage children when they make progress, no matter how small it may be. A supportive environment can significantly boost their confidence.
Interactive Learning Methods: Using tools such as interactive games, quizzes, or puzzles can make learning mathematics fun and less daunting. Check out Brighterly’s math games for kids.
Step-by-step Problem Solving: Breaking down complex problems into simpler steps can help children understand and approach them without fear.
Professional Help: If the anxiety persists, it may be beneficial to seek help from a psychologist or educational therapist specializing in anxiety disorders.
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What Causes Math Anxiety?
You’d never know how to solve any problem unless you know its root. Uncovering the causes of math anxiety can give you a better view of your child’s experience and the ways to manage their emotions. Here are nine causes of math anxiety.
Earlier negative experiences
Most kids develop math anxiety after having bad run-ins with the subject. For instance, a kid who spent all their time studying for a test but still gets a low grade can feel discouraged. The experience of flunking may cause that child to lose the momentum to keep trying or put in the effort.
Kids frequently get worried when they have to meet strict deadlines imposed by their teachers during tests. Math anxiety may set in when teachers place time constraints on students. Since kids need time to think and be sure of their answers during tests, they could lose their cool and fly off the handle.
When kids come to class and are not well-rested or prepared for the day’s learning, they may be anxious. They may also have difficulty remembering earlier concepts. When this happens, kids feel helpless and may become frustrated. The fear of failure is proven since it might have a detrimental effect on grades.
Fear of public ridicule
You can connect math anxiety to earlier embarrassments from peers and classmates. The condition might worsen if a child gets the solution to a math problem wrong and gets mocked by their peers. Also, a kid may be frightened of standing in a crowd of classmates to answer questions.
Students can easily sense their teacher’s mood and attitude towards math. When a teacher is unenthusiastic about math, their pupils will not enjoy the course either. Math will become boring to kids, and subsequently, they will lose the zeal to learn.
Students who assume that their mathematical ability is predetermined are less likely to believe that putting in the effort to master the subject would not pay off in the long run. Sometimes, kids may use words like “I am not good at math” and convince themselves that is the case. All these negativities can affect their psyche, and by the end of the day, kids may even become depressed.
Conventional classroom learning
The traditional learning pattern involves kids sitting in the classroom to receive lessons. They just memorize formulas and principles instead of actively engaging in problem-solving and exploration. When kids get used to going to school, reading textbooks, listening to teachers talk, playing, and going home, they become bored.
Perception about math
People with math anxiety link math to a feeling of helplessness. Imagine that a child’s only interaction with numbers is seeing their parents deal with unbalanced checkbooks and bills. The child may link math to bad things that could happen when you mess with numbers. That feeling will reduce their enthusiasm to learn math.
A kid’s mental state has an enormous impact on their achievements and math skills. When children are stressed, they tend to develop math stress and fear. Also, they may get tired if they try learning too many concepts and formulas within a short period.
Strategies You Can Take to Help Your Child Overcome Math Anxiety
Remember that the ability to solve math problems is a foundational skill that every child needs to possess. Numerous established methods and activities may help your child overcome their fear of math, but you’d first have to know them. The following are solutions for parents interested in teaching their kids how to reduce math anxiety.
Teach them to study more
To help your children or students overcome math anxiety, teach them time management, note-taking, and other efficiency tips. With time and lots of experimentation, kids will know which study pattern works best and stick to it. The more kids study, the more they can solidify the concepts learned in class.
Encourage them to attend classes
Your child can learn tricks to make math less challenging, but not all of them will be in their textbooks. As the speed of their curriculum picks up, a kid needs to be present in class. At school, children can learn about upcoming exams and get tips on tackling questions.
Help them develop organizational skills
Proper organization can help kids tackle stress. When in class, they need to be excellent math note-takers. They should have a special notebook for writing down terminologies, formulas, theorems, and concepts. Students should practice scribbling down ideas for later revisions.
Constant evaluation of their math abilities
Students should recognize and evaluate what they know and do not know about math. Even after daily class activities, they need to keep working on their math skills to do better and get rid of their math anxiety. Your kid may overcome math anxiety when they have confidence in their abilities. You can point out all the questions they got correct while going through homework to boost their confidence.
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Teach them to stay positive
Kids need to understand the impact of their own words and thoughts. Also, they shouldn’t focus on their shortcomings and faults. Instead of letting kids dwell on any doubts about their abilities or math in general, you can teach your children positive proclamations. Whenever they feel stuck on a math problem, have them say, “I am a math guru” or “math is my best friend.” Finally, ensure your child is surrounded by pleasant instructors and pupils that can help them.
Get educational resources
To improve grades and get rid of math anxiety, your kid should have access to teachers, the internet, videos, textbooks, study groups, and friends. These measures help them make the most of what they have around them and get all the help they need. Educational resources can serve as a good reference point, especially when students access a math course outline.
Hire a personal/online tutor
If you notice your child has math anxiety, you can hire a professional tutor since they can significantly affect the way a student views math. Tutors may provide students with one-on-one interaction they lack in the classroom and help them work through existing issues in a non-threatening environment. With online tutors, kids can learn comfortably at home and boost their self-esteem. Also, professional tutors can recommend educational resources the children can use in their spare time.
Listen to their opinions
Many people suffer fear and worry when confronted with mathematics, mainly if they have not done it in a while. Talk to a child; help them understand that their anxiety is temporary and they can go through all math problems. You can handle a child’s math anxiety by listening to their personal opinions and allowing them to jot down their concerns about math.
As an alternative to writing math, young children might use their imagination to create visual representations of their thoughts. Instead of always writing, have a child do mental math and offer them other ways to solve math problems. This way, kids see tests, quizzes, homework, and exams as opportunities to solidify their math knowledge instead of viewing them as threats.
Make math fun
To get rid of math anxiety, try to make math a fun and enjoyable experience. Seek measures to connect math to things that interest your child. For instance, if your first grader likes football, you could teach them simple addition by giving them a math problem like 5 + 3 to solve.
When they get the correct number, a kid has to bounce the ball eight times. Today, app developers incorporate math themes into video games like escape rooms where kids work in a group to solve math riddles and finish the activity.
Make math practical
When your kid is coping with math anxiety, you should understand that practical math is in high demand among today’s students. As a result, teaching math must be grounded on real-world applications. Use numbers to teach kids how math knowledge can be applied to the real world. Also, use hand-on activities like hopscotch to make the learning process realistic.
Give kids time to understand concepts
Children who have math anxiety see math as a sequence of illogical processes that they have to memorize. It only gets worse as they get into higher grades because they would need to build on previous knowledge. For example, when teaching complicated subtraction like 52 – 18, you would typically instruct the student to borrow “1” so that 2 – 8 can become 12 – 8.
Your explanation would make little or no sense to kids who do not have a basic understanding of subtraction. They could often get confused and ask why you need to borrow a number. Every child deserves the opportunity to understand simple concepts before you move further to more complex ones.
Promote healthy communication
Healthily communicate with kids and encourage them to talk about their struggles, doubts, and misconceptions. Assure your children that nobody is born a genius in math and everybody starts learning math from scratch. Your choice of words while studying with kids is critical. Offering valuable feedback like praising kids for accurate answers, speed, or excellent marks builds their confidence.
Don’t rush things
To overcome math anxiety, give kids time to reflect before asking them to answer a question. If you emphasize the role of timing, a child may feel that mathematics is about providing quick solutions. So, have them think and give kids many chances to get the answer right.
Create a safe learning environment
When students feel safe and secure, they learn better. Some pupils’ attention is diverted from math because they are afraid the instructor will call their names at any moment. Students will be able to think and learn better if they don’t have to worry about being picked out to answer questions. So, they get to stand up and answer questions on their terms.
Let them join math clubs
Math teachers typically use math clubs to create focused teaching for struggling pupils. Many students doubt their skills, and these groups may help them. As kids associate with their peers without math anxiety, they usually get a completely different math orientation from their peers.
Math clubs allow students to communicate, ask questions openly, explain to one another, clarify concepts in meaningful ways, and express their thoughts about learning. Kids can get diverse views. The tips and shortcuts from math club can help them solve problems.
Encourage some “me” time
When overcoming math anxiety, your kids should have some alone time. Having a “me” time would help them get away from all the noise in the class environment. Kids should go to a comfortable place to practice math to avoid any kind of pressure. Before a test, about ten minutes of revision should be enough to juggle their memory and remember all they have studied.
There is no shortcut to becoming a better mathematician, but there are ways to get there gradually. Do not pressure kids with math anxiety to understand several concepts simultaneously. Encourage children to work at their own pace. While you motivate kids, please try to bring up attainable and realistic goals for them. Also, start from the basics before moving on to more complicated concepts.
Use illustrations and cartoons from worksheets
If your youngster suffers from math anxiety, math illustrations, cartoons, and jokes can help get them out of that phase. So, use cartoon illustrations to teach or promote debate in the classroom. The use of colorful images will help your students associate math with positive emotions. For example, you will get good pictures and hands-on activities that pique your child’s interest in math with a free math worksheet.
When kids have math anxiety, it disrupts their activities and retentive ability. So, they end up making more mistakes while solving math problems. Math anxiety has both short-term and long-term repercussions since it can keep kids away from career options that have to do with math when they get older. The tips in this article will provide you with necessary information for teaching your child how to overcome math anxiety.
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