7 Evidence-Based Tips To Help Your Child Cope With Math Anxiety

Of all the inheritances your child inherits, the most common and perhaps the least sought after is a fear of math. According to renowned American scholar Mark H. Ashcraft, math anxiety can be described as “a feeling of tension, dread or fear that interferes with math performance.”

Ashcraft also believes that highly anxious math students avoid situations that require them to perform math calculations. This in turn means less math skills, exposure and practice, leading to reluctance to take math lessons and a general feeling of resentment.

Mathematical anxiety is a very common occurrence and can be noticed by people of all ages. A person with symptoms of math anxiety may become unusually agitated, have a fast heart rate, sweaty palms, upset stomach, and dizziness.

It can also manifest itself physically as a sore stomach, fatigue, headaches, and lack of motivation. The causes can range from fear of making a mistake, to negative parental predispositions and the pressure of timed tests or poor grades.

Fortunately, for parents and teachers, here are some evidence-based tips that may help your child if they are showing symptoms of math anxiety –

1. Game-based learning platforms

In the recent past, the education sector has transformed to embrace technology and innovation in its processes. Game-based learning is the result and has made learning fun and interactive for the students.

Students seem to enjoy this method of learning, while teachers are more involved in the virtual classroom.

These platforms help impart knowledge through curriculum aligned games that reinforce the fundamentals of any subject. Best of all, students won’t know they are being tested or doing their homework – it’s all part of the adventure.

2. Use mixed capacity pooling

Through this method, peers with different abilities are brought together to encourage students with higher mathematical abilities to think more deeply and to design alternative solutions to help those who find the subject difficult.

On the other hand, grouping students according to their abilities – that is, high with high and low with low – can have a negative impact on students in lower groups.

This not only increases their difficulty with the subject, but also reinforces their negative perception of mathematics and limits their exposure to the program.

3. Make math fun

Teachers who use games to teach math have seen improved engagement rates among students. These games are unique ways to boost morale and confidence, which further helps students improve their skills.

According to a US-based nonprofit called Educause, playful learning can “reinforce the fact that failure is neither a setback nor a result, but rather an indication that more work is needed to master the skills or knowledge available ”.

4. Positive reinforcement

A few words of encouragement can have an unprecedented positive impact on a child. A study in the Journal of Emerging Investigators, exploring the effects of positive and negative reinforcement on students, suggests that positive reinforcement may result in higher grades.

The researchers also found that students who received positive reinforcement had significantly lower heart rates when solving problems.

So, instead of punishing, teachers and parents may want to motivate children with rewards to help them improve their learning and academic achievement.

5. Find a tutor

One-on-one tutoring sessions have been found to be helpful in remedying children with high math anxiety. Various studies over time have shown that regular math tutoring has further reduced math anxiety.

6. Encourage understanding, not memorization

Data published by PISA in 2012 suggests that out of 13 million students, the lowest achievers were those who used memorization strategies.

There is no doubt that memorization is valuable, but pointing out that it is the only way to do math is problematic. This rigid mindset will eventually produce a generation of students who are competent but unable to think outside the box.

7. Practice mindfulness

In 2013, cognitive psychologist Tad T. Brunyé published a study in Learning and Individual Differences focusing on how breathing techniques affected mathematical anxiety.

The study found that when very anxious math students practiced mindful breathing exercises, they reported feelings of more calm and performed well on timed tests.

Mathematical anxiety affects people into adulthood. Over time, schools will continue to struggle with widespread underachievement – a reality that has both short and long term implications. However, using research backed advice, parents / teachers can help children overcome math anxiety.

–Article by Mahalakshmi Satish, India Director, Prodigy Education.

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