Maths anxiety is a genuine condition that affects an estimated 6-17% of people of all ages across the world. A fear of and aversion to mathematics, it can manifest in low scores and avoiding the subject in the future. Often beginning in early childhood, it can have a significant impact on maths aptitude throughout a person’s life.
Early prevention is one of the most effective ways of overcoming maths anxiety in your class. Here are some signs to look out for, and things you can do to help your students overcome their fears:
Signs to look out for:
- The artful arithmetical dodger – Excessive evasiveness is one of the more obvious signs of maths anxiety. This can take the form of frequent trips to the toilet, illness, or acting out and misbehaving to disrupt lessons.
- Brain freeze – Freezing up when asked a maths problem is another common symptom, as anxiety takes up a lot of working memory space that would usually go toward thinking about the question at hand.
- Getting emotional – Feelings of frustration, anger, helplessness, and loss of confidence are all signs of maths anxiety. One-to-one conversations can help you identify these harder-to-spot symptoms.
Have you recognised any of the above symptoms in yourself? Maths anxiety can affect teachers too! Higher levels of maths anxiety in teachers are related to lower mathematics achievements of their students
What you can do about maths anxiety:
Once you know the symptoms to look out for, you can provide one-to-one help to students who may be suffering. There are also some blanket measures you can take for the class as a whole to extinguish maths anxiety:
- Elaborate – Try and explain the why, and not just the how, of solving the problem at hand. Many students with maths anxiety do not understand the rhyme or reason to equations. They view maths as rote learning for an incomprehensible series of steps. If you take students deeper into the working out process, explaining the reason for each stage, they may just start seeing things in a new light.
- Make maths fun with games and activities – Gamification can take the stress out of traditional maths exercises, by reframing it as something fun and light. There are so many maths-related games you can download onto the ActivPanel, as well as flipchart and whiteboard games available in the ActivInspire Resource Library!
- Slow things down – Allow students to take their time when answering a maths question. This helps students get over that initial deer-in-the-headlights.
- Sweet talk – Words of praise or encouragement go a long way to get students thinking more positively about maths.
- Get quizzical – Maths quizzes can be completed on personal devices that connect to the ActivPanel rather than the more public hand-raise-and-answer style of quizzing. These allow students to complete problems anonymously and at their own pace (and avoid brain freeze). They also give teachers a general overview of what the class is doing right, and where they need more support.
- Practice mindfulness activities with your class – Breathing exercises have been shown to improve performance in those with maths anxiety as they promote calmness. Or, if you feel the mood in the class start to tense-up during a maths lesson, why not upload some brain break apps onto your ActivPanel to help get things back on track?
- Dispel the myths – A lot of maths anxiety is based around the old misconception that people are left or right-brained, and that some just don’t have a “mathematical mind”. Make sure students know that anyone can excel at maths with the right attitude!
Check out our edtech powering maths goals blog to learn more about how you can level up your maths game!