Does your child have math anxiety? If your child dislikes math, they are not alone. Many students claim to dislike math, but for many others, the situation is much worse than disliking math. A real fear of math, known as math anxiety, causes many students to have physical reactions to math, including inciting a host of negative emotions, including a fear of failure, which can lead to low math scores.

## What Happens in Math Anxiety?

Math anxiety isn’t just for senior students. In fact, math anxiety can have an impact on students as early as first grade by affecting their working memory.

Working memory is like a ‘mental scratchpad’. It is the part of the executive function part of the brain that we use when working to “hold” numbers and not lose track of what we are working on.

Students with math anxiety may struggle to keep track of numbers the teacher is talking about or, in other cases, not remember a number long enough to solve a simple problem.

## Causes of Math Anxiety

- Fear of public embarrassment

Math anxiety can be linked to negative emotions from the past. If a student has been scolded for getting an answer wrong, it can make their anxiety worse. The same is true if they have been embarrassed in front of others.

- Influence of Others

Students can also pick up on teachers’ and parents’ feelings about math. If a teacher is excited and positive about math, the students are more likely to be as well. The opposite is also true: if a parent dislikes math, the child will most likely dislike math.

- Test stress

The deadlines that timed tests impose on students lead them to feel anxious. This leads them to forget concepts that they have no problem remembering at home. Since tests can have a negative impact on grades, students’ fear of failure is confirmed. This creates a vicious circle that can be difficult to break.

## Know What to Look For

If your child seems to be struggling with their math grades, look for the following symptoms of math anxiety:

- Unusual nervousness when doing or thinking about math. Even thinking about math is enough to cause stress to the student.
- Passive behaviour. Students are either too afraid of failure or simply thinking about math, which brings so many negative emotions that they are unwilling to even try.
- Students feel alone. They feel that they are the only ones incapable of finding solutions, even if the math is extremely complicated.
- A feeling of permanency. The student begins to believe that he or she is naturally bad at math and always will be, so they give up trying to improve.
- Lack of confidence. Students expect never to know the answers to math questions, so they depend on other people to do math for them. An example is expecting parents to help with homework.
- Panic during tests or when called on to answer questions. The classroom becomes a major source of stress for students, especially when they are taking a test or expected to contribute in class.

## Tips to Handle Math Anxiety

1. Positive Reinforcement

Students coping with math anxiety need to feel that they can excel at math. Review homework with your child and point out all the questions they got right. Put an emphasis on correct answers rather than mistakes. If possible, surround the student with positive teachers and students.

2. Tutoring Support

Teachers can greatly impact a student’s feelings toward math. Even if your child has a great teacher who is enthusiastic about math, tutors can provide one-on-one support that can be hard to get at school. They can help students work through their problems in a low-pressure environment. Tutoring can also improve students’ self-confidence.

3. Reframe Anxiety

Reframing anxiety can improve mathematics performance. Have a student write down their worries about math before doing it. By having to think critically, students can realize their fears are unfounded. Young children can draw pictures as a substitute for writing. Assist reframing by having students see tests and assignments as challenges instead of threats.

4. Make Math Fun!

Try to create positive emotions by making math fun. One way to do this is to connect math to the child’s interests. For example, if the student likes sports, use sport-related word problems. Check out these five tips to make math fun.

## Get Extra Math Support at GradePower Learning

If you know a student who struggles with math anxiety, GradePower Learning can help. Learn more about our hands-on math program that builds student math skills and comprehension. With a focus on building a strong math foundation, students build math competence that helps them put an end to math anxiety.