Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Math Anxiety

Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Math Anxiety

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Are you one of the people who find themselves going queasy when they think about numbers and mathematical operations? Does math make you dread going to school? Have you ever made a decision purely based on avoiding any subject math-based? Then you may be suffering from math anxiety.

Math anxiety is what a person experiences when they panic over working with numbers in any way. It is actually a common affliction. It affects people regardless of age, gender, and ethnicity. 

As a rule, people who feel anxious about their math abilities can perform much worse in math, but this is not always the case. There are several studies that found that Math Anxiety can work both ways. Sometimes, poor performance can be the cause of anxiety.


A person may be experiencing Math Anxiety if they are manifesting these symptoms: 


There are many causes of anxiety, though a majority of the confirmed cases have three primary causes. These primary causes are Fear of Embarrassment, Time Pressure, and Teacher Impact.

  • Fear of Embarrassment. Being scolded, having low scores, being teased, or any form of negative emotion or experience in front of others can cause anxiety.
  • Time Pressure. Not being able to perform within a limited time can also cause anxiety. Some people even experience frustration from not finishing a test or a problem because of time pressure. Being anxious about time can lead to memory-loss, no concentration, and losing the ability to answer a problem even if a person studied hard.
  • Teacher Impact. How a teacher helps a student experience math can affect their performance. If the teacher provides the students with a safe space where they can practice and improve their skills, their anxiety could lessen. In contrast, if a teacher is unsupportive and unexcited about math, the performance of the students would reflect these practices.
  • Parent Impact. How a parent presents their experiences with Math and their own Math skills can also affect a child’s anxiety. If a parent constantly reprimands a child for performing poorly at math, the child can associate punishment with math. Another way parents can affect a child’s experience with math is when the parents declare that since they were not good with math themselves, it is ok for the child to not be good at math as well.

Coping with Math Anxiety

There are many ways to help a person cope with anxiety after finding that they may be suffering from it. Different strategies can be used to improve their math performance in their lives. Some of these strategies are 

  • Redefining Anxiety. Redefining anxiety helps a student further understand their fear of math. There are several psychological exercises, like asking the student to write down the reasons they are scared of math, to help them realize that there is no reason to be anxious at all.
  • Working with a Tutor. Many studies have found that having individualized, real-time tutoring sessions can help ease, or totally eradicate, math anxiety for students. Tutoring sessions give the students the opportunity to understand concepts better and practice their skills. It is also important to find a tutor that brings out the best in the student. A tutor who has set goals, training, experiences, and certifications will be the best option to help a student cope with anxiety.
  • Work in a Group with Diverse Skill Levels. Grouping students together in such a way that high-performing students can help low-performing levels does not only improve the math skills of the students with anxiety but it helps them open up as well. Working with a peer who knows what to do can make them more comfortable asking for help and learning how to answer problems.
  • Positive Reinforcement. Words of encouragement and praise can help lessen the feeling of dread and dejection that comes with anxiety.
  • Creating Positive Math Experiences. Associating positive emotions with learning math will make learning math eases the worry of not being able to perform well in math class. If the student is having fun and learning along the way, they may lose their reservations only to realize that they have already learned. 

Math anxiety is something that can change the life of a person. It is important to remember that it can be dealt with easily with patience and understanding. 

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