Math Anxiety
Wednesday, Feb 22,2017

A lot of students claim not to enjoy math. But for some of them, the issue with math is more than simply disliking algebra or fractions.

For some students, doing math can cause negative emotions like fear of failure. This harms their ability to do well. This is known as math anxiety.


Math anxiety impacts students as early as the first grade by affecting their working memory. Working memory is like a ‘mental scratchpad’. It is important when we need to keep track of numbers. But this working memory can be disrupted by math anxiety in both elementary and secondary school students. This can lead students with math anxiety to be as much as half a school year behind their peers in math. Even for students who don’t struggle with math anxiety, it’s important to develop positive study habits that will help them as math becomes more complex.


Major causes of math anxiety include:

The deadlines that timed tests impose on students lead them to feel anxious. This leads them to forget concepts that they have no problem remembering at home. Since these tests can have a negative impact on grades, the student’s fear of failure is confirmed. This creates a vicious circle that can be difficult to break.

Math anxiety has also been linked to negative emotions from the past. If a student has been scolded for getting an answer wrong, it can make his or her anxiety worse. 

Students can also pick up on their teacher’s feelings about math. If a teacher is excited and positive about math, the students will be as well. But if educators are negative about it, it can have the opposite effect.


If your child seems to be struggling with his or her math grades, look for the following symptoms of math anxiety:

Even thinking about the subject of math is enough to cause stress to your child.

Your child is either too afraid of failure, or simply thinking about math brings so many negative emotions, that he or she is unwilling to even try.

Your child feels that he or she is the only one incapable of finding the solutions, even if the math is extremely complicated.

Your child begins to believe that he or she is naturally bad at math and always will be, so he or she gives up trying to improve.

Your child expects never to know the answers to math questions, so your child depends on other people to do math for him or her. Example: expecting you to help with homework.

The classroom becomes a major source of stress for your child, especially when he or she is taking a test or expected to contribute in class.


If your child struggles with these challenges, you’ve probably found yourself wondering how to handle math anxiety. It can affect any student, and the best way to prevent it is to build positive study habits.


Children coping with math anxiety need to feel that they can excel at math.

Review homework with your child and point out all the questions he or she got right. Put an emphasis on correct answers rather than mistakes. If possible, surround the student with positive teachers and students.

Teachers can have a great impact on a student’s feelings toward math. Even if the teacher is enthusiastic about math, supplement teaching with a qualified tutor. Tutors can provide personal attention that is hard to get at school. They can help students work through their problems in a low-pressure environment. Tutoring can also improve students’ self confidence.

Reframing anxiety can have an improvement in mathematics performance. Have a student write down his or her worries about math before doing it. By having to think critically, students can realize their fears are unfounded.

Young children can draw pictures as a substitute for writing. Assist reframing by having students see tests and assignments as challenges instead of threats.

  1. Positive Reinforcement

  2. Get a Tutor

  3. Reframe Anxiety

  4. Make Math Fun!



Add Comment