Overcoming Math Anxiety in the Elementary Grades

Math anxiety has become very common today in students and has been shown to develop in students as young as age five. Math anxiety is more than just not liking math. People who suffer from math anxiety become stressed just at the thought of numbers.

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Students suffering from math anxiety become behind in school as a result of their fears. Math anxiety has to boundaries when it comes to age, race, or gender and affects all types of students. There are many reasons these students experience math anxiety, but with help from their teachers there are ways to alleviate some of these fears so that they may excel at math.

Math anxiety refers to the anxious feeling that one cannot perform in situations that require the use of mathematics. This does not only affect students in school, but in all aspects of life that require math skills. Math anxiety is associated with intense nervousness or discouragement when it comes to math problems or tests. When students feel this anxiety they automatically shut down, which forces them to doubt themselves in their math abilities. When a student continuously fails at math, this causes them to have the mindset that they will always fail in the subject (Andy). One of the most common results of math anxiety is poor math skills and poor math grades. This does not only affect them in grade school, but follows them in their education through and after college (Shields).

There are many reason that students experience math anxiety. One of the most common reasons for math anxiety is teacher attitudes. The way the teacher feels about the subject reflects onto their students. Teachers, just like students, either love math or hate it. When a teacher loves the subject they may put students down for not being as good as them at the subject. This can discourage a student and make them feel embarrassed. Also, if the teacher feels negative about math, they may put these feelings onto their students. It is important for the teacher to stay positive about math so that the students are comfortable when learning new skills. As a teacher, you should never put down a students for having the wrong answer, but value the student’s mistakes and figure out where they went wrong. Another reason students may experience math anxiety is their fear of timed tests. Although tests are essential in school, they should not be the main focus. The most important thing is that students are able to take the skills they learn and use them in real life (7 Reasons). Not all students are going to think the same way. This results in different strategies and ways to solve the problem. Teachers should let students use their brains in their own way, as long as they are getting the correct answer. Many students think that math is boring. As an educator, it is your job to make students love math. If students are having fun learning, then they will forget their fears. To make math fun, you can turn problems into real life situations. Use names of students, solve problems that will make the students laugh, and solve problems as they are telling a story are all ways to make students enjoy the subject. When you teach students in ways that distract them from their anxiety, they become more engaged and excited to learn. Which results in better scores. (The Fear of Math)

When I become a teacher, I realize that there will be many students in my classroom that will not be comfortable with math. I also feel that I have anxiety when it comes to certain types of math. I can only hope that my feelings toward this subject will not reflect in my classroom and onto my students. I am a firm believer in everyone thinks differently. All students are different and all have ways that work for them when it comes to academics. Letting my students think freely is very important to me and I want all of my students to know that. I also plan to focus less on testing and how fast a student can solve a problem, and more on making sure they get the right answer and are understanding the problem. As a teacher, my main goal is to make learning for my students’ fun and being sure that they can take those skills and excel in their education and in real life.

Works Cited

  1. 7 Reasons Behind Math Anxiety and How to Prevent It. HomeSchoolMath.net, https://www.homeschoolmath.net/teaching/motivate.php.
    Joseph, Andy. Definition of Math Anxiety. Sciencing, 24 Apr. 2017, sciencing.com/definition-math-anxiety-5666297.html.
  2. Shafer, Leah. The Fear of Math, Five strategies to help students conquer their math anxiety. Scholastic Instructor. 2015.
    Shields, Darla J. Teachers Have the Power to Alleviate Math Anxiety. Academic Exchange. 2005.
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