The vicious cycle of math anxiety is something that many students face. After examining this phenomenon in 64 countries, researchers at the University of Chicago found that individuals with higher levels of math anxiety tend to perform worse in math exams. Studies have concluded that this aversion to math is a vicious cycle: being anxious leads to worse math performance, increasing math anxiety even more.
Now that we have established the real problem of math anxiety, the next step is to determine the best ways to tackle it if your child is among these troubled learners.
Below are some of the effective tips to help your child overcome their math anxiety and get them on their way to excel in the subject.
1. Let them know that having a 'mathematical brain' is not necessary for their success
The first step towards overcoming your child's math anxiety is making them understand that they do not need a 'mathematical brain' to do well. Students with math anxiety often attribute their poor performance in math to 'not having the brain for it' or simply being 'just not good at math'.
The truth behind this is comforting and scary at the same time: no one person truly does. There is no such thing as a magical brain structure that makes anyone good at math. As with most things in life, being good at math is a matter of practice. Even so-called 'non-math' and creative people can do great at the subject with the right amount of practice.
2. Get stuck and then unstuck
Math anxiety and other negative emotions develop when students feel stuck on a concept or problem and cannot seem to break through it. To deal with this issue, literacy interventionist Kate Mills used the method of getting her students stuck on a problem and guiding them to get unstuck. Before revealing the answer, she would prompt students to go over the problem on their own first and instruct them to carefully consider how they plan to get themselves unstuck.
As the students worked out the problem, Mills would ask guided questions to aid their problem-solving process, like what their first and subsequent steps are, what they are doing at the moment, and how they managed to get unstuck if they managed the problem on their own.
After noting down your child's own problem-solving techniques, consider visualising these methods in, let's say, a flowchart to help your child get fully acquainted with their unique way of getting unstuck. These remind them of the strategies they already use and even quickly get to grips with newer methods they will eventually come across.
The visuals serve as a motivational tool that helps students be more confident in their ability to solve math problems and that there is always something that they can do to navigate tough questions.
3. Make math relevant to your child
It is understandable why many students come to believe they are not 'math people'. In truth, how the subject is taught at school is rarely engaging and often overly abstract and unrelated to anything students will use or want to use in their daily lives. However, math is so much more than that.
To prompt someone to be motivated to learn more about a given subject, it needs to be relevant to their interests. For example, if your child is fond of video games, math could serve as a way to help them calculate the damage potential of their character so they can do better. Perhaps they want to have the newest gadgets that their friends have. In that case, they can use math to better optimise their spending to get what they want sooner.
4. Focus on the whys instead of memorising formulas
Math is chock full of formulas and equations that many students are led to believe they have to memorise rather than understand. Of course, this is far from the best way to learn math, as focusing on conceptual understanding is much more effective and promotes long-term learning.
By shifting their effort and attention to understanding why math works the way it does, your child can better remember the specifics of the math concepts they encounter. As such, teach them that it is more important to be able to explain what a given formula does, even if they cannot always remember exactly what and where each symbol goes.
5. Get one-on-one help from a tutor
Having a great teacher is one of the keys to every student's success story, and this is no different for overcoming math anxiety. With the help of specialised math tutors in Singapore, your child can get the undivided attention they need to overcome their math hurdles and significantly improve their math skills.
Through all these tips, the real trick to getting over math anxiety is shifting your child's attitude towards math. It is never their ability that is the problem, but rather their belief that math is something they will never use outside of school. Math is involved in many parts of our life, and it is important to help them find ways to enjoy it or at least rid their fear of dealing with it in and out of school. As parents it is also important to know how to support your children during exam seasons.
Need extra help with your child's math anxiety? Consider enrolling them today at Colourtrain Academy, where our skilled and passionate teachers make math fun and engaging so they can get over their fear of maths. We specialise in primary to secondary math tuition in Bukit Batok, providing students with the skills and confidence they need to succeed. Don't hesitate to contact us today to learn more!