Math Anxiety and How to Overcome the Fear, Loathing and Stress

  • Math anxiety might be right up there with public speaking when it comes to stress.

    Math anxiety is often defined as a feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear that interferes with math performance. The stress is related to poor math performance on math achievement tests. It is related to negative attitudes about math. And anxiety, scholars say, is directly connected with math avoidance.

    But there are ways to cure math anxiety.

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    In a course taught by and for teachers, educators will learn to get in touch with their own math anxiety, if any. That is considered a first step toward improving performance in the classroom.

    Teachers will also learn how to get to know their students so as to understand their learning needs as well as if they have math anxiety or not.

    In addition, educators will learn what the top math anxiety produces are and how to avoid them.  In doing so, they will learn how to create a curriculum and assessment that lessen the chances of producing math anxiety.

    So what is it about Math that causes so much stress?

    According to Ryan Pickett, a professional development instructor, math anxiety generally stems from a negative experience with math.

    “With math also comes more timed tests, which can be a starting point for anxiety,” Pickett says. “If a student has a learning disability in this area and also has negative math experiences either with a parent, teacher, or peer, then the anxiety that they experience will be exacerbated.”

    So what can be done about it?

    There are some proven ways to make learning math stress-free and even fun, according to educators.

    In order to help students get over math anxiety or lessen the chances of it occurring in the first place, teachers need to create positive math experiences.

    One way to do this is to create lessons and assessments that utilize the students learning strengths rather than continuing to focus on their weaknesses.

    “Math has traditionally focused on correct or incorrect answers, which can cause anxiety,” Pickett says. “We need to focus more on understanding the process and concepts rather than the answer (at least at first).

    “Students need to know that we learn from our mistakes and that without them we will not get better at something. This change in mindset will reduce performance anxiety in math,” he adds.

    Pickett offers a specific example. He says it is important to make sure that lessons focus on multiple different learning modalities as well as choice in how students produce their work.

    “In doing this, you will give all students a chance to learn to utilize their strengths, which will produce more positive experiences,” Pickett says.

    Are you ready for stress-free math?