Many adults and kids today deal with math anxiety, and while it is a big issue for kids, it is an even bigger problem for adults. So, homeschooling parents have to nip this state in the bud when it first begins. Before getting to strategies for overcoming math anxiety in your home, let’s first identify what is math anxiety?
Math anxiety is a fear or apprehension that hits a person when they deal with a math-related problem. In adults, this fear manifests when they have to make any calculations, especially with budgets. As a result of anxiety, many people shy away from anything that would require crunching numbers.
What are the symptoms of math anxiety?
Here are some of the common symptoms of math anxiety:
Worry or dread when a kid faces a math problem
When people who have math anxiety have to deal with a numbers-related problem, they immediately get worried and dread takes them over. Sometimes, these feelings spiral into panic attacks and may even begin to affect the sufferer physically. A child may start sweating, shaking, and having shortness of breath when they realize they must deal with math. If you notice that your child gets into a near-panic mode or starts falling physically ill whenever they have a math test or have to do a math assignment, then they may have math anxiety.
Avoidance of math altogether
Another symptom of math anxiety is avoidance. People with math anxiety do not want to be anywhere near math problems no matter what happens. Even if it is a simple money calculation, they will find all the reasons to avoid it. For adults, it is easier because they can outsource most math problems. However, kids cannot wholly escape math because they must do it to get ahead from one grade to another.
So, if you find out that your kid is skipping math class or you check their bags and see that they do every homework but math, they may have math anxiety. Of course, if your child could, they would skip the tests too, so parents need to discover these signs early enough and take measures.
One of the ways to quickly spot math anxiety is to notice when a person keeps talking down on themselves concerning math. You would often find this behavior in kids, which is the first indication of a fear of math. When you hear your child saying, “I am not good at math,” “I will never be able to understand math,” or “I am bad at math,” it means that they are finding it hard to grasp math concepts and they are not open to learning.
Negative self-talk regarding math has more power than we give it credit for. Even if you sign your child up for math websites for kids that are more fun and easier to work with, but they still keep up the negative self-talk, they will never get past the anxiety. So, listen to your kids and be ready to take the first step at solving a problem that may worsen with age.
What are the causes of math anxiety?
Different factors may trigger math anxiety, and here are some of them:
Previous bad experiences
Sometimes, a previous experience that affected a student badly and probably caused embarrassment may trigger math anxiety in them. If a student fails a math test once and is embarrassed or made to feel awful about it, they might avoid math altogether because they do not want to repeat that experience.
Almost every teacher teaches math the same way in schools, and sometimes, there are special kids in the class who may not understand math with that learning style. Such children usually need extra attention from their teachers who should choose a suitable learning approach. However, the school system does not provide the time and resources for observation and attention to detail. With every class, kids who do not learn the same way as the others feel left behind more, and at some point, they will realize that they will fail this class because they do not understand what is happening. Math anxiety sets in.
Genetics is said to be one of the factors that may cause math anxiety. So, if a parent has math anxiety, there might be a chance that one of the kids might develop this fear of math as they grow too. The research behind this is still ongoing, but there is a chance that if you have math anxiety, your kid might have it too.
Strategies for reducing math anxiety
After looking at the causes and symptoms of math anxiety, the next big question is what steps can you take to reduce math anxiety? There are different strategies for reducing math anxiety, and here are some of them:
Identify the source of anxiety
The first thing you must do when trying to get rid of math anxiety is to identify the source. If you know why something is happening, you are one step closer to fixing it. Also, knowing why anxiety exists will teach you how to solve the problem. So, talk to your child and find out if the anxiety results from a lack of confidence, an experience, a math concept, a teacher, or something more significant. You need to be patient when conversing with a kid and not expect answers immediately because sometimes, they may not know the problem, and other times, they may have issues articulating themselves.
Change a kid’s mindset
If your child constantly talks negatively about math problems, they are due for a much-needed pep-talk. Take them to a mirror and have them re-engineer their minds concerning math problems. Tell them that they are not bad at math, that they are geniuses, and that their minds are open to understanding math concepts, no matter how complex they seem. You would be amazed at how much difference this exercise can make in kids’ lives.
Break math concepts down
Sometimes, math anxiety happens because teachers over-complexify math concepts. Yes, math problems are complex but they do not have to stay that way.
You must find different strategies for teaching math if you want to help your kids break down their math anxiety. In class, a teacher does not have the time to break down math concepts for each child, but you can do this while homeschooling because you have time. Take each concept apart using the common core principles and look for all the multiple ways to solve a problem.
One of the symptoms of math anxiety is avoidance, and you must take care of that. Kids cannot keep running from math problems as they will never overcome that fear. Set a schedule, and stick to it. Bring up math randomly, create a conversation around math, and keep it going. Do not back down if a kid tries to fight their way out of getting math lessons. Put your foot down and ensure that they practice often.
Math anxiety in adulthood is worse and almost unfixable, but you can fix it with kids. You must ensure that your child does not become an adult with math anxiety by fixing the issue when they are younger. Step in, take care of the issue, and teach them math in a way they will understand using the tips listed above.