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Does your child fear math tests more than other subjects? Do they hide under the bed when you ask them to do their math homework? Would they rather do chores than equations? 

Math anxiety is a widespread issue that affects all age groups. A recent study showed that 67% of teachers said that math anxiety was a challenge for their students. On top of that, more than 90% of adults have indicated that they have experienced some form of math anxiety and 1 in 5 would categorize their anxious feelings towards math as “severe”. 

One definition of math anxiety is “the panic, helplessness, paralysis, and mental disorganization that arises among some people when they are required to solve a mathematical problem.” Simplified, it’s a negative emotional reaction to math.  

It can be easy for students to feel overwhelmed by math, especially when they get into high school and the questions become increasingly complex and more complicated. Math anxiety affects students of all ages in academic situations, as well as in their educational well-being.

There are three theories that link math anxiety and math performance:

  • Deficit Theory: Poor performance leads to higher math anxiety
  • Reciprocal Theory: A vicious cycle – higher anxiety contributes to poor performance and poor performance contributes to higher anxiety
  • Anxiety Model: Math anxiety leads to poor performance in math

Although it can sometimes seem overwhelming, there are ways to reduce math anxiety and help your child increase their confidence in this important subject. Here are a few tips to decrease their doubt and dread about decimals and division:

  1. Play Math
    Playing games involving math can have a calming effect on children and allow them to work on their skills in a low-pressure environment. Games can also bring a sense of fun to math, reducing intimidation and making your child interested in math. Games such as Monopoly, Yahtzee, and cribbage all encourage math skills. 
  2. Talk About Math During Everyday Activities
    When it comes to math, practice makes progress. Introducing math concepts to your children in fun and exciting ways can help to reduce their anxiety towards the subject. Ideas such as counting and measuring items around the house, talking about fractions and measuring during cooking, discussing patterns and shapes, and comparing prices of items when you’re shopping can all help normalize using math and increase confidence.
  3. Get Organized
    Keeping good notes can go a long way to achieving success in math. Encourage your child to keep a good math notebook of terms, formulas, and procedures they can easily refer to. Math anxiety is heightened by disorganization. As students work their way into advanced math, having well-organized notes can be an invaluable asset while also helping to establish good overall study habits.
  4. Focus on the Positives 
    Most types of anxiety, including math anxiety, focus disproportionately on the negatives. Making an effort to focus on the positives can be a valuable tactic when it comes to overcoming math anxiety. Instead of focusing on the incorrect answers on the test, focus on the ones they got right. Assure your child that thoughts such as “I can’t do math” or “I’ll never be good at math” are simply not true. A study of sixth-grade students in The Journal of Emerging Investigators showed that students who received positive reinforcement had significantly less stress while calculating math problems than students who had negative or neutral reinforcement. A little positivity can go a long way!
  5. Hire a Tutor
    Many students feel insecure about asking questions in class or admitting that they don’t understand a concept. With a tutor, they can learn and practice without worrying about being judged or embarrassed. A tutor can also help them to build confidence and change their attitude toward math. Don’t let math anxiety hold your child back! 


The Scholars Team


January 11, 2023