Math anxiety is a negative emotional response that prevents people from being able to comprehend math or to do math problems. Essentially, it is an emotional problem. However, since it hampers a person’s ability to learn math and to solve math problems, it becomes a mental issue because people with it think they are incapable of doing math. Here are 12 tips to help conquer the fear of math in children and adults.
How to Help your Child with Math Anxiety
To Help Younger Children
- Do not communicate your anxiety about math. Even if math tests terrified you as a child, do not let your children know that. Emphasize to your children that math skills are important in life. When they begin working, some math may be required on the job. Even if math was difficult for you, it does not have to be difficult for your children. Many resources to help children learn math and to help them with math problems are available online.
- Ask children to rate themselves. Ask children to tell you on a scale from one to 5, with 5 being the highest, how good they think they are at math. This guides you in assessing their abilities and anxiety levels about math. Even if they are not 100 percent on the mark, at least you know what they want you to think.
- Set Goals. Determine which math concepts hyour child knows and which ones he or she needs and wants to learn. Once your child has learned a concept, chalk that up to a mission accomplished.
- Apply math practically whenever possible. For instance, if you are putting a tablecloth on a table, discuss how the length and width determine the total area of it. Or, if you are at a baseball game, discuss how batting averages and ERAs are calculated.
- 5. Let children show their mastery to others. Once your child has learned a math skill, let him demonstrate and explain it to you, a relative or to a younger brother or sister.
- Let your child know that often there are no quick fixes in math. It is not uncommon for solving a math problem to take time. Also, there is usually more than one way to solve a math problem, and the solution requires multiple steps. Let your child know that there is nothing wrong with being slow and deliberate.
- Reward your child for math accomplishments. The reward can be something small like stickers or a slice of pizza. Acknowledgement of a job well done is what’s important.
To Help Older Children
- Assess the knowledge of math fundamentals. Some people stress over math because they do not have a good foundation in math basics such as multiplication, fractions, decimals and percents. The more advanced concepts in math build on math’s foundations. If your older child feels he has weak fundamentals, let him try some basic math drills online.
- Speak positively. Don’t let your children limit themselves by saying they are bad at math. Keep in mind that some experts who have studied math and how people learn it say that many people underestimate their ability to solve math problems. Don’t let your older children sell themselves short and fall into the trap of thinking they are bad at math.
- Know the psychology of learning math. Carrying negative thoughts about math hinders your ability to learn it because fear interferes with concentration, attention and memory. Know what situations trigger your math anxiety and work on replacing those negative thoughts when they first appear with positive ones. Learn to give yourself pep talks and learn techniques that will control your negative, counterproductive thoughts.
Experts who have studied how people learn math and other subjects say that people with math anxiety allow themselves to be upset by a math problem when they would never allow themselves to be upset by a problem in history, philosophy or English, for example. Refuse to allow yourself to be upset by a math problem. If it is getting to you, just put it aside and come back to it later.
- Teach them math terms. Sometimes people confuse their lack of understanding math terms with not being able to solve math problems. Help your older children learn the meaning of math terms and learn to recognize math symbols.
- Show them how to use a variety of tools to solve a problem. This is not the nineteenth century. In addition to doing calculations on paper, in many situations, students are allowed to use calculators. So what if your child needs count on her fingers to solve a problem?!? The bottom line is that it never hurts to know more than one way to solve a problem.
Math anxiety is a tricky situation to be in. The best thing is to achieve success in math but anxiety keeps our children from doing that. Try to think positively and assess the situation to make sure your child has all the emotional and educational tools he or she needs.
Also published on Medium.