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Overcoming math anxiety

Math anxiety refers to the fear, worry, or anxiety that appears when faced with math-related problems. Many people describe that their mind “goes blank” when they see numbers.
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Math anxiety refers to the fear, worry, or anxiety that appears when faced with math-related problems. Many people describe that their mind “goes blank” when they see numbers.

In children, math anxiety may appear as stress or tension when they are asked a math-related question, or negative math-related self-talk (e.g., “I’m just bad at math”). It can also appear like skipping their math class or staying home sick on the day of a math test.

Math anxiety can develop for a variety of reasons. Children’s math anxiety is often associated with the level of math anxiety of the important adults in their lives. There is also gender-based stereotypes that, despite being repeatedly debunked, continue to exist and make math anxiety more common in girls. Lastly, some people really do struggle with math, which would naturally lead to more apprehension around math activities.

Here are some ideas for supporting children with math anxiety at home and school.

  • Watch your messaging about math. Kids pick up on adults’ feelings about math. Rather than saying, “I’m not good at math either,” say, “Let’s figure it out together.” Speak positively about the importance of math and your confidence in their (and your own) math skills.
  • Make math a fun part of everyday life. Cook or bake with your child and talk about fractions using measuring cups. Build something together and talk about angles and shapes. Estimate distance while you fish at camp.
  • Focus on the process, not necessarily the product. Some children feel stressed knowing that there is a right or wrong answer. Focus on ensuring your child understands the process of arriving at the answer and allow for creativity in developing the process that makes most sense to them. Praise your child for showing their work and explaining their thinking.
  • Practice! Having a solid foundation of math facts can help to instill confidence. For example, you can practice multiplication tables while you’re driving to school.



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