Fighting Math Anxiety
"I'm bad at Math."
"I don't have a Math brain."
"I will always struggle with Math."
Have you ever said one of these phrases? I hear my students say these things all the time. I can relate, I used to be one of those people who thought they were inherently bad at math. I even thought that I wasn't good at math because I was a female. In my younger years, I thought that either you were born with math ability or you were born without math ability. Oh boy, how I was mistaken.
I didn't realize that the kids in my classes who were excelling at math were putting in some unseen efforts. If I'm being honest, I didn't put a lot of work into my math courses during my school years because I didn't feel like it was worth the effort (since I was so bad at math). In reality, it was my math anxiety that was making me bad at math...not my genes.
I work with students every day who think they don't have those "math genes". In reality they are struggling with math anxiety and a poor image of themselves in the math world. They are afraid of math and therefore shrink away from trying and taking risks. Some of this fear and struggle is due to unsatisfactory teachers, curriculum or other outside factors. Some of this fear also comes from the attitudes a child has about math. Whatever the case, the way a child feels about their capability when it comes to math can make a HUGE impact on how well they are able to learn the subject.
The good news is, math anxiety can be turned around. Students can teach themselves to be comfortable with math.
Check out the three suggestions below for ways to help your child overcome math anxiety and build a better mentality when it comes to math.
Tell them the truth
This may be the most important thing you can do for your child in any subject. Tell them the absolute truth about how most people come to success in the subject. Yes, a very small percent of people are born with insanely great abilities in math. The rest of us have to put forth effort, get uncomfortable, and ask questions when working through math. Just like anything else, some will have to work harder than others, but everyone who achieves math greatness must put in a lot of grunt work to understand the material.
Get comfortable with math yourself
Children can sense when you are uncomfortable and will adopt the same mentalities. If you worry about math or get anxious when doing math your child might be picking up on it. Try to trace when you first became uncomfortable with math and see if you can reverse your thinking. If math is a challenging subject for you try to re-frame and start to think of it as a fun challenge. Maybe try to find a math puzzle you enjoy doing- like Sudoku- to help you begin to enjoy math again.
Do fun math as a family
Many families recognize the importance of reading together to encourage a love of reading. The warm fuzzies of reading as a family really do help children associate those good feelings with books and reading. The same premise goes for math! Work with numbers as a family to create those warm fuzzy feelings. You can do math puzzles together, calculate to double a recipe, divide cookies among family members and so much more. When you start to look for fun and interesting ways to point out and use numbers in your daily life, you will most definitely start to see way more than you thought you would!
Help your child relax
Sometimes I will present a math problem to my students and automatically see them tense up because they think it will be difficult. Sometimes the sight of a lot of numbers can make a child go clammy and white. It may be beneficial for you to help your child learn to calm themselves down when they become anxious over a math problem. Learn breathing techniques and practice them together at homework time. Help your child learn to talk themselves through the initial fear they feel when a math test gets placed in front of them. You may want to help your child re-frame their thoughts on tests by having them compete against themselves instead of for a grade. As long as you are improving you are doing well.
Do you have math anxiety? Does your child? How do you plan to reverse your feelings about math?
Personalized support provided by a tutor can help eliminate math anxiety. If your child might need math help this school year, I would love to give them the support they need. Click here to schedule your free online tutoring trial session.