How to Help Children with Math Anxiety

· March 13, 2019
Discover how to help children with math anxiety in this article!

Math anxiety is quite common. Approximately 60% of all students may suffer from it. Mathematics can trigger negative emotional responses in most students.

Nonetheless, math is very important. If you don’t pass math, you probably won’t graduate, so math anxiety is an obstacle that children must learn to tackle. In this article, we’ll focus on some keys and tips to help them overcome math anxiety.

Causes of math anxiety

A common fear is triggered by thoughts or some circumstances. Regarding math anxiety, some of these factors are:

  • Thinking about the problem.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Lack of understanding of basic math.

All of these factors can make children so fearful of failure that it will keep them from moving forward. In the worst case scenario, children can develop psychological disorders such as anxiety or depression.

A girl with math anxiety.

1. Thinking about the problem

Some students, and part of the general population, may think that math is complicated. This impression is reinforced everywhere and children are already scared before they even get to class.

Constantly thinking that something might be difficult can make it unnecessarily true. This is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think about failing whatever you’re doing, you probably will just because you’ve influenced your own behavior.

However, the real issue isn’t that the subject is too hard. According to Professor Jo Boaler, only 3% of people have serious difficulties in learning math. For everybody else, it’s perfectly possible to comprehend it. So how can we internalize this so children don’t get anxious about it?

First, we must explain to students math is a skill like any other. Just like everybody can learn how to ride a bike, almost everybody can dominate geometry or algebra with a little bit of effort.

If a child feels totally helpless (something common in children with low self-esteem), you can propose that they try solving math problems that you know will be easier for them, to boost their trust. From there, you can make it a little more difficult. This will also help with their lack of motivation.

A child with a lack of motivation.

2. Lack of motivation

Most kids already hate math because they either think it doesn’t make sense or they believe it’s too complicated.

A lot of math problems don’t have any type of connection with the child’s real world. Since they think that all of their problems are more related to going out on the weekends or relationships, children and teenagers tend to feel they don’t need to learn math. At some extent, they might be right.

If you want to study something related to science or engineering, math is necessary. Otherwise, not so much. However, math is part of the school system. That’s why parents and teachers must help children find math useful.

If they pass math, they’ll have a better future. That’s why you need to make it a challenge for the child, sort of a game to play.

3. Lack of understanding of basic math

A lot of students in advanced math classes don’t even understand basic math, which leads to anxiety. Luckily, this has an easy solution. Walk through the basics with them. Parents can help, as well as a private tutor. It’s even better if the child decides to do it on their own. They should study and refresh their knowledge.

Self-image and academic performance.

As you’ve seen, math anxiety is a common issue caused by several things. In this article, we talked about some of them, and we also learned how to tackle them. However, the most important thing is to keep trying. Remember that pretty much everybody is capable of learning math.