7 Ways to Prevent Math Anxiety in Students
- Jul 06, 2016
- Sudipto Das
Image Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/141735806@N08
Math anxiety- a very common issue of students. So what is it? Mathematics anxiety’s defined as the feelings of tension interfering with manipulation of numbers as well as solving math problems in various ways. This is one of the main reasons for students to lose their self confidence. This loss in self confidence damages the student’s performance in mathematics. But what causes this Math anxiety? Let’s see that first.
Causes of Math anxiety
The common cause of math anxiety is the pressure that’s incorporated from timed tests. Time is seriously an important culprit that inculcates this Math anxiety in students, especially when the student is struggling with specific sums. The student is actually trying to solve the problem by implementing all the concepts that he knows but then the clock’s also ticking at the sidelines. S/He has to complete that sum within a stipulated time period because other sums are also waiting in the back-ground. Now that’s pressure; there’s no doubt about it. The clock is inculcating fear into that poor child who’s already struggling with a specific sum. This can affect his/her entire performance in that paper and might not be specific to that specific problematic sum.
Another cause that we can highlight here is the probability of public humiliation. Now we are not saying that this humiliation actually happens but this is a part of the student’s thought process. Certain students have the tendency of keeping quiet and not raise any question in math class even if they do not comprehend the underlying math principle/context. So why do they do that? We have already provided you with the answer up above. The specific student has developed this idea of public humiliation that is s/he believes that if s/he asks the teacher to clarify the matter again, other students will probably laugh at him/her. It might be true or mightn’t be true at the same time. But the basic thing is that his performance gets affected. S/he starts to develop the dreaded math anxiety.
The 3rd important cause is math misconceptions. These misconceptions develop in the budding stage of students’ career and trouble students throughout their career. Some common math misconceptions can be found in this article that’s divided in 3 parts- part 1, part 2 and part 3 for your reference. These misconceptions result in frustration which in turns creates anxiety. Now this is seen as a problem by many teachers but that mentality needs to be changed. It’s up to them to decide whether the misconceptions are seen as a part of a problem or a part of a solution. We’ll try to provide you some ample guidelines to curb this math anxiety.
Preventing Math Anxiety: 7 Guidelines
- It’s commonly seen that students experience mathematics anxiety in traditional classrooms. Why don’t we try to change that? The best way to do that is incorporating technology in classrooms. This is not a great challenge in this modern era where smartphones and tabs are in abundance. Lessons through apps/games can make the learning experience more gratifying from the point of view of students. There are even tactile games that serve the same purpose in a fun and effective manner; some can even be made from a simple pen and paper or can be bought from the market at a reasonable price e.g. Aggression, Tangrams, Sink that Ship, Tower of Hanoi etc. Now that is what we call a smart classroom.
- Teachers should try to exhibit a high level of tolerance. Now this is an important point and we are not saying that teachers are intolerant in classes. And yes, we also agree that such a large number of students can really hamper the tolerance level of a teacher if a few out of those underperform in mathematics or struggle hard with the subject. But still it’s a request from our end to keep the tolerance level high especially when those specific students are concerned. Incorrect responses to certain math problems are bound to come in classes but teachers must try to handle that positively through encouragements and jolly words. That would certainly instill confidence in such students and might direct them to the right path of success.
- Say yes to active learning rather than passive learning. What is active learning? We would try to answer that question first. Active learning means the introduction of certain activity in classes for better and effective lessons. And why are we actually screaming for it? Children are more productive if they feel that are actually involved in something and not distant or isolated. Any activity tries to involve each and every student in the game and gives them a sense of purpose, thereby boosting confidence. Math activities such as reasoning quizzes involving rewards, tactile games etc. can benefit students in the long run. Activity creates more chaos in the class, isn’t it? Well, not necessarily if it’s done in a systematic manner. For example, if there’s a reasoning quiz, each group of students should respond in runs and not at the same time to avoid such chaos and confusion. We should be aware of the fact that books are not the only source of learning; practical knowledge is more important and more enlightening.
- Make math connection with daily life. This is a very effective solution to reduce math anxiety. Connecting mathematics with daily life provides the most effective hands-on learning experience of mathematics. We will try to provide you with one example. Say for example you are shopping in a supermarket for groceries or for any other goodies with your kid. You can try to involve him/her into mathematics by simple asking him to apply the prescribed discount on certain items and come to the correct price that needs to be paid. This is a fun activity that will certainly interest him in mathematics. You can also up the ante by introducing a reward. The reward can be anything say a chocolate or a pack of chips or an extra hour of cartoon. Your child will never feel bored with it and will try to solve the sums with an extra sense of purpose. S/He will seemingly come back to that type of sums again and again because of this very exact reason, thereby growing his/her interest in the field of mathematics. Seemingly, there are many such examples in our daily life. We’ll just have to keep our eyes open to find it and incorporate the same into our children’s life.
- Experimentation is another way to reduce math anxiety. To explain it in a clear way, we would say it’s a trial and error method. This is a good way to implement math techniques and learn the same on their own. The benefit of this technique is that the student gains immense self confidence through this procedure which can indirectly reduce math anxiety to a great extent.
- Introduction of cartoon films and movies that incorporate math concepts can reduce math anxiety to a great extent. Children love cartoons and they might not even realize that they are actually learning about certain math concepts. There are several films that incorporate mathematics in their plot stories. We will provide you with an example f a cartoon suitable for young children- Donald in Mathmagic Land.
- You can blend art with math to ignite the passion of mathematics in children. How can you do that? We can provide you a suggestion. Implement origami in classes to teach geometry facts and figures to children. Children will thoroughly enjoy the lessons. Origami is pretty creative because a variety of shapes and structures can be made from paper and at the same time it can also teach people a lot about geometry. Plus it’s cheap and fun. What’s not to like about? Go ahead, implement it and you’ll see how it can reduce math anxiety in students.
Math anxiety is a common problem that occurs in many students because of their poor performance in classes or exams. The above ways can definitely help them to rise above this issue and improve their performance in mathematics. Along with that, afterschool online math tutorials can also benefit the students in a similar manner. We just have to develop our mindset in a certain way and judge math anxiety as a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. That’s the only way to cure such an anxiety.
Sudipto writes technical and educational content periodically for wizert.com and backs it up with extensive research and relevant examples. He's an avid reader and a tech enthusiast at the same time with a little bit of “Arsenal Football Club” thrown in as well. He's got a B.Tech in Electronics and Instrumentation.
Follow him on twitter @SudiptoDas1993
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