What is math anxiety and does it exist?
Sweat pouring down your face, your clothes are damp, there is nervousness, fear of failure, embarrassment, and anxiety….. These are all the normal symptoms that one experiences when faced with a sheet of unanswerable math questions. “Math anxiety” is a phenomenon that most students struggle with all their life.
Educational psychologists define the term “Math anxiety” as a legitimate concept where there is “a feeling of tension and anxiety that interferes with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems in a wide variety of ordinary life and academic situations.” This anxiety manifests not only physiologically and cognitively, but emotionally. The only way to eradicate the stigma around math is by identifying the symptoms and overcoming them.
What are the common symptoms?
- Negative Talk: A fixed mindset “I am not good enough… I can’t do the math.” Students indulge in a negative talk that demeans themselves and their capabilities and also expresses their dislike towards math.
- Poor performance: Low self-esteem, self-doubt, and fear of failure leads to them not being able to perform well on tests. Low performance are indicators of math anxiety
- Negligence: Students often avoid attending math class or make up false excuses to avoid appearing for math tests
Strategies of overcoming math anxiety
- Making learning fun: Teachers and parents can promote math games, puzzles, quizzes and make use of mental math apps that are designed in a way to captivate students by having rewards that boost their engagement.
- Implement understanding rather than rote memorization: Application and understanding are directly proportional to confidence which can only be achieved when students try to understand the meaning of the mathematical concept rather than memorize it.
- Connect math problems to real-world scenarios: Mathematical word problems and mental math can be difficult for students who do not have visualization and application skills. These skills can be honed through real-life scenarios which foster problem-solving skills, a sense of numerical and help students to apply themselves beyond a classroom setting
- Supportive parents and teachers: Parents and teachers are the most important people in a child’s development. Often math anxiety can stem from a negative home/school environment where children are mocked and picked on. Encouraging a positive mindset starts from the household itself. Parents should also invest in good counselors and tutors that uplift the child’s self-esteem and encourage them to face their challenges.
Also published on Medium.