5 Tips for Overcoming Math Anxiety

Math anxiety is a genuine phenomenon affecting many students, no matter their age. It’s a feeling of dread, fear, and apprehension that can overtake anyone when they’re faced with a math problem. For some children, math anxiety is so intense that it can cause them to completely freeze up, making it impossible even to attempt to solve the problem. It is often caused by a fear of failure, self-doubt, and negative past experiences with math. However, parents and children need to remember that everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their lives and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. 

Many children can overcome their math anxiety by trying different approaches to learning, including taking a brain break, learning a positive mindset or other such modalities. At Dropkick Math, our math tutoring can also help children who may be experiencing math anxiety. All of our programs are run by certified Ontario teachers who have been trained in how to address math anxiety. 

Nervousness vs Anxiety

Some children may get nervous, but for others, it is not simply a matter of feeling nervous. Being nervous is a perfectly sensible reaction to something that is truly scary. In a 1972 Journal of Counseling Psychology article, educational psychologist Frank Richardson and counselling psychologist Richard Suinn defined “math anxiety” as:

“A feeling of tension and anxiety that interferes with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems in a wide variety of ordinary life and academic situations.”

Steps To Overcome Anxiety

If your child is struggling with math anxiety, don’t worry – there are steps they can take to overcome it and improve their performance in math class. Math anxiety can be managed and overcome with practice, patience, and perseverance. With the right support and mindset, anyone can learn to love math. The following are our top 5 tips on how to help your child overcome math anxiety. 

  1. One of the best things your child can do is experiment with different learning methods. Some students learn better by listening to lectures, while others prefer working through problems on their own using math manipulatives. There is no one right way to learn mathematics, so find the best method for your child and stick with it. With a little effort, they will be able to overcome math anxiety and succeed in math class!
  2. If you notice your child feeling overwhelmed while studying math, it’s okay for them to take a break. A brain break can help refresh their mind, making it easier for them to focus later on. Brain breaks can be active or passive, depending on the child’s needs. Active brain breaks focus on physical movement and may involve jumping or dancing around. Passive brain breaks are more about mindfulness or sensory and may include taking deep breaths or listening to calm music.  Taking breaks is essential for keeping their mind sharp and ready to tackle challenging math problems. 
  3. Explain to your child the difference between understanding and memorization. Memorization can be beneficial in certain circumstances, but it may produce a procedurally competent student who can’t think their way out of a box. The sooner you can encourage your child to understand math operations instead of memorization, the sooner they will develop number sense and mental math skills, which will help boost their confidence in mathematics. 
  4. Never underestimate the impact that a few encouraging words can have on your child. Children experiencing math anxiety can feel hopeless and lost, but knowing that a caring adult is there and cheering them on could help boost their confidence. A study published in the Journal of Emerging Investigators explored the effects of positive and negative reinforcement and their impact on students’ mathematical performance in 6th grade. All participants were required to do mental math to calculate fraction problems after receiving a negative, positive, or neutral form of reinforcement. They wore a heart monitor to track their anxiety, and it was found that students who received positive reinforcement had significantly lower heart rates when calculating fractions. So, next time your child is struggling, try motivating them through positive, encouraging words or even rewards to help improve their learning and academic success. 
  5. Make math fun! At Dropkick Math, we believe that all children can become interested in math and overcome math anxiety if it is presented in a fun and engaging way. All of our programs offer game-based learning to help those who may be struggling. Through encouragement and rewards, children will begin to excel at completing complex math questions and beat their fear of math. 

Physical Symptoms Of Math Anxiety

Anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as a racing heart or sweating. With such physical reactions, many children who have math anxiety tend to avoid situations in which they have to do math. However, by following these simple tips, you can help your child overcome math anxiety and start to enjoy learning mathematics. 

Along with interventions, Dropkick Math offers programs that can help a child improve their math skills. When a child becomes more confident in mathematics, their level of math anxiety decreases. With our fun and engaging programs, children will learn to become more at ease with math problems.

Learn more about our math help services today!

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