How to Help Students Deal With Math Anxiety

As educators, we have encountered our fair share of students who regularly ‘forget’ to do their Math homework. We came to realize that this penchant for neglecting Math arose not from laziness or disobedience, but from trying to side-step the anxiety generated by the subject. Students who struggle with the emphasis on speed when problem-solving will inevitably dread Math because of the helplessness and fear it generates, leading to a spiralling negative mindset, lack of motivation, and ultimately avoidance. To stop Math anxiety from standing in the way of our students’ success, we need to come up with strategies to improve their attitude and mindset regarding the subject. Here are some ways:

Keep Reassuring

For students battling Math anxiety, it is important that they receive reassurance from authority figures. Parents and teachers can play a part by gently reminding these students that learning is a process – Math might feel impossible to grasp at the beginning, but with patience and purposeful effort, the path of understanding becomes easier to walk. Showing these students compassion and understanding will reduce their anxiety and encourage them to give Math a chance!

Reduce The Emphasis On Speed 

Due to a misplaced fixation on exam duration, us educators might end up putting weaker students under undue stress when teaching them Math. Instead of emphasizing speed, we should shift the focus of our pedagogy to finding a variety of solutions for the same problem. When students see the multiplicity and flexibility of solutions to problems, Math will seem increasingly less impossible in their minds. Over time, they will become faster at problem-solving because they have a variety of tools to utilize, instead of obsessing over their lack of understanding of one method.

Encourage Working In Groups

Struggling alone over a challenging Math problem can be an excruciating process! It could be beneficial to put students with different abilities in a group so they can solve problems together. This exposes students to different perspectives and the various paths that lead to a solution. Furthermore, since turning to peers for help is less daunting than asking an authority figure, weaker students can ask their friends for help without worrying that they might be rebuked.

Do More Sample Questions 

Instead of waiting for teachers to give out Math assignments after a topic has been taught, students can independently start to enhance and deepen their understanding by trying out sample questions! These questions can be retrieved from various Math textbooks, assessment books or past year papers. Start by attempting multiple choice questions or short answer questions related to the topic that was recently taught. With practice, students will become more confident, and attempting a full Math paper under timed conditions shouldn’t be a problem! 

Study In Smaller Chunks

Trying to process the entire Math textbook in one go will be too much for the brain. It can result in information overload. Instead, let students know that they can break the content into smaller chunks that are more manageable and digestible. For example, divide chapters into multiple sub-chapters; and use flashcards and illustrations to simplify huge chunks of numbers into pictures. Not only will students have an easier time remembering key learning points, they will also have more mental space to question what they are studying, and draw links to other spheres of knowledge. This allows for a more engaging and meaningful learning process. This also helps to expand memory limitations, allowing information to be retained for a longer period of time. 

Pay Close Attention In Class 

Often, students find Math challenging and difficult to tackle as they have not been paying close attention to teachers’ teachings. Furthermore, dealing with countless numbers of formulas can be extremely confusing and daunting. As a result, many students tend to get distracted and lose focus in class. When this happens. Students might start to miss out on important information and notes which are crucial in helping them answer Math questions. Therefore, Math may appear unapproachable and terrifying for many students. To solve this issue, allow students to take breaks between their lessons. Taking breaks has shown to be important in recovering from stress, hence improving performances. 

Make Use of All Resources 

Besides textbooks, assessment books and past exam papers, there are other resources which can be utilised to ensure a more productive learning for Math. One of which would be studying with a group of friends. Encourage students to find a group of people who are learning the same material will benefit them when preparing for a test or even simply for revision. They can review the material by quizzing one another, reteach it and ensure that everyone is on the same page. When one encounters a problem with their assignment, other students who are familiar with the concept can offer to help them. 

Another way of utilising resources is to make use of the internet. There are several tips and tricks for Math that are uploaded on the internet which can come in handy when students are stuck on challenging Math questions. There are also several online Math calculators which can help students understand formulas better by showing them graphs. 

Practice Mindfulness 

A study done has shown that when students who are anxious about Math practice mindful breathing exercises, they become more relaxed which helps them to perform better. Engage students in breathing exercises such as the 4 7 8 breathing technique to help ease their anxiety. Here’s how it works: Firstly, close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of four. Then, hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth for a count of eight. This would be one complete cycle. Students can repeat this practice as many times as they desire till they feel more calm and ready to tackle the seemingly unapproachable Math. 

Conclusion: 

Math is a subject that many students fear due to its complexity. Most of us paint a scary image on what we fear and try to avoid them as much as possible. When students are anxious to approach Math, they avoid the subject and do little to help them improve in it. This is why students do not fare well in Math. However, when Math is dealt with carefully, it can be in fact really fun and engaging. Don’t give up on Math and keep thriving! 

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